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Foreword from the Prime Minister
When we began the Integrated Review in early 2020, we could not have anticipated how a coronavirus would trigger perhaps the greatest international crisis since the Second World War, with tragic consequences that will persist for years to come. COVID-19 has reminded us that security threats and tests of national resilience can take many forms.
Thanks to the fortitude of the British people and the monumental efforts of our NHS, the UK is emerging from the pandemic with renewed determination and optimism. Our journey to recovery has already begun and we are resolved to build back better, ensuring that we are stronger, safer and more prosperous than before. Yet if we are to escape the malign effect of the virus, the race to vaccinate and therefore protect people cannot stop at national borders. Hence the UK has joined other countries in the COVAX initiative to extend this campaign across the globe.
Having left the European Union, the UK has started a new chapter in our history. We will be open to the world, free to tread our own path, blessed with a global network of friends and partners, and with the opportunity to forge new and deeper relationships. Our Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU gives us the freedom to do things differently and better, both economically and politically. In the years ahead, agility and speed of action will enable us to deliver for our citizens, enhancing our prosperity and security.
My vision for the UK in 2030 sets high ambitions for what this country can achieve. The Union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has proved its worth time and again, including in this pandemic. It is our greatest source of strength at home and abroad. Our country overflows with creativity in the arts and sciences: the wellsprings of unique soft power that spans the globe.
Few nations are better placed to navigate the challenges ahead, but we must be willing to change our approach and adapt to the new world emerging around us. Open and democratic societies like the UK must demonstrate they are match-fit for a more competitive world. We must show that the freedom to speak, think and choose – and therefore to innovate – offers an inherent advantage; and that liberal democracy and free markets remain the best model for the social and economic advancement of humankind.
History has shown that democratic societies are the strongest supporters of an open and resilient international order, in which global institutions prove their ability to protect human rights, manage tensions between great powers, address conflict, instability and climate change, and share prosperity through trade and investment. That open and resilient international order is in turn the best guarantor of security for our own citizens.
To be open, we must also be secure. Protecting our people, our homeland and our democracy is the first duty of any government, so I have begun the biggest programme of investment in defence since the end of the Cold War. This will demonstrate to our allies, in Europe and beyond, that they can always count on the UK when it really matters. We will exceed our manifesto and NATO spending commitments, with defence spending now standing at 2.2% of GDP, and drive forward a modernisation programme that embraces the newer domains of cyber and space, equipping our armed forces with cutting-edge technology. And we will continue to defend the integrity of our nation against state threats, whether in the form of illicit finance or coercive economic measures, disinformation, cyber-attacks, electoral interference or even – three years after the Salisbury attack – the use of chemical or other weapons of mass destruction.
As the attacks in Manchester, London and Reading have sadly demonstrated, the terrorist threat in the UK remains all too real – whether Islamist-inspired, Northern Ireland-related or driven by other motivations. Our security and intelligence agencies and law enforcement community work around the clock to stop would-be terrorists in their tracks, disrupting 28 planned attacks since 2017. We will continue to invest in this essential work, through increased funding for the intelligence agencies and Counter Terrorism Policing in 2021-22 and our drive to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers. And we will maintain constant vigilance in protecting British citizens from serious and organised crime.
We will also bring to bear new capabilities such as the Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre and the National Cyber Force. Learning from the pandemic, we will bolster our national resilience with a new Situation Centre at the heart of Government, improving our use of data and our ability to anticipate and respond to future crises. And we will deliver our goal of having the most effective border in the world by 2025, embracing innovation, simplifying the process for traders and travellers, and improving the security and biosecurity of the UK.
Keeping the UK’s place at the leading edge of science and technology will be essential to our prosperity and competitiveness in the digital age. Our aim is to have secured our status as a Science and Tech Superpower by 2030, by redoubling our commitment to research and development, bolstering our global network of innovation partnerships, and improving our national skills - including by attracting the world’s best and brightest to the UK through our new Global Talent Visa. We will lay the foundations for long-term prosperity, establishing the UK as a global services, digital and data hub by drawing on our nation’s great strengths in digital technologies, and attracting inward investment.
In 2021 and beyond, Her Majesty’s Government will make tackling climate change and biodiversity loss its number one international priority. Under my chairmanship, the UN Security Council recently held its first ever high-level meeting on the impact of climate change on peace and security. The UK was the first advanced economy to set a net zero target for 2050. We will now begin an unprecedented programme of new investment, taking forward our ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution by funding British research and development in green technologies, and helping the developing world with the UK’s International Climate Finance.
The creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is the springboard for all our international efforts, integrating diplomacy and development to achieve greater impact and address the links between climate change and extreme poverty. The UK will remain a world leader in international development and we will return to our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development when the fiscal situation allows. And we will maintain the other vital instruments of our influence overseas, such as our global diplomatic network and the British Council, driving forward campaigns for girls’ education and religious and media freedom.
British leadership in the world in 2021
2021 will be a year of British leadership, setting the tone for the UK’s international engagement in the decade ahead, through our presidency of the G7 and the Cornwall summit in June, the Global Partnership for Education, which we will co-host with Kenya in July, and culminating in the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, in partnership with Italy.
In 2021 the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, one of the two largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, will lead a British and allied task group on the UK’s most ambitious global deployment for two decades, visiting the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific. She will demonstrate our interoperability with allies and partners – in particular the United States – and our ability to project cutting-edge military power in support of NATO and international maritime security. Her deployment will also help the Government to deepen our diplomatic and prosperity links with allies and partners worldwide.
I am profoundly optimistic about the UK’s place in the world and our ability to seize the opportunities ahead. The ingenuity of our citizens and the strength of our Union will combine with our international partnerships, modernised armed forces and a new green agenda, enabling us to look forward with confidence as we shape the world of the future.
The Prime Minister’s vision for the UK in 2030
A stronger, more secure, prosperous and resilient Union
The United Kingdom will be a beacon of democratic sovereignty and one of the most influential countries in the world, tackling the issues that matter most to our citizens through our actions at home and overseas.
Our Union will be more secure and prosperous, with the benefits of growth and opportunity shared between all our citizens, wherever they live in the UK.
We will have built back better from COVID-19 with a strong economic recovery and greater national resilience to threats and hazards in the physical and digital worlds.
We will be better-equipped for a more competitive world – defending our democratic institutions and economy from state threats, terrorists and organised crime groups, while embracing innovation in science and technology to boost our national prosperity and strategic advantage.
A problem-solving and burden-sharing nation with a global perspective
The UK will meet the responsibilities that come with our position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We will play a more active part in sustaining an international order in which open societies and economies continue to flourish and the benefits of prosperity are shared through free trade and global growth.
We will sit at the heart of a network of like-minded countries and flexible groupings, committed to protecting human rights and upholding global norms. Our influence will be amplified by stronger alliances and wider partnerships – none more valuable to British citizens than our relationship with the United States.
We will continue to be the leading European Ally within NATO, bolstering the Alliance by tackling threats jointly and committing our resources to collective security in the Euro-Atlantic region. As a European nation, we will enjoy constructive and productive relationships with our neighbours in the European Union, based on mutual respect for sovereignty and the UK’s freedom to do things differently, economically and politically, where that suits our interests.
By 2030, we will be deeply engaged in the Indo-Pacific as the European partner with the broadest, most integrated presence in support of mutually-beneficial trade, shared security and values. We will be active in Africa, in particular in East Africa and with important partners such as Nigeria. And we will have thriving relationships in the Middle East and the Gulf based on trade, green innovation and science and technology collaboration, in support of a more resilient region that is increasingly self-reliant in providing for its own security.
Creating new foundations for our prosperity
By 2030, the UK will continue to lead the advanced economies of the world in green technology as part of our wider international action in tackling climate change and biodiversity loss. We will be firmly on the path to achieving global net zero carbon emissions, having reduced our own national emissions by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels. We will also have protected at least 30% of our land and sea to support the recovery of nature.
We will be recognised as a Science and Tech Superpower, remaining at least third in the world in relevant performance measures for scientific research and innovation, and having established a leading edge in critical areas such as artificial intelligence.
We will be at the forefront of global regulation on technology, cyber, digital and data – to protect our own and fellow democracies and to bolster the UK’s status as a global services, digital and data hub, maximising the commercial and employment opportunities for the British people.
The UK will be a magnet for international innovation and talent, attracting the best and brightest from overseas through our points-based immigration system. Every part of the UK will enjoy the benefits of long-term investment in research and development, education and our cultural institutions.
Adapting to a more competitive world: our integrated approach
The UK will continue to be renowned for our leadership in security, diplomacy and development, conflict resolution and poverty reduction. Our cooperation will be highly prized around the world and we will be a model for an integrated approach to tackling global challenges, integrating our resources for maximum effect.
As a maritime trading nation, we will be a global champion of free and fair trade. We will continue to ensure that the openness of our economy – to the free flow of trade, capital, data, innovation and ideas – is an advantage by protecting ourselves and our allies from corruption, manipulation, exploitation or the theft of our intellectual property.
Our diplomatic service, armed forces and security and intelligence agencies will be the most innovative and effective for their size in the world, able to keep our citizens safe at home and support our allies and partners globally. They will be characterised by agility, speed of action and digital integration – with a greater emphasis on engaging, training and assisting others.
We will remain a nuclear-armed power with global reach and integrated military capabilities across all five operational domains. We will have a dynamic space programme and will be one of the world’s leading democratic cyber powers. Our diplomacy will be underwritten by the credibility of our deterrent and our ability to project power.
The image above consists of text with icons showing areas where the UK is world-leading.
- Defence and security: World-leading security and intelligence agencies, supported by over; £3bn of investment each year; 2nd highest defence spender in NATO and highest in Europe; 28 terror attacks disrupted in the UK since 2017; 2 tonnes of drugs, 77 firearms and £54m in criminal cash seized and 746 arrested under Operation Venetic.
- A science and technology superpower: Ranked 4th in the Global Innovation Index; Home to leading medical research, such as the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine; UK has won the 2nd highest number of Nobel Prizes, with 99 Nobel laureates; 3rd in the world for tech unicorns, with 77 tech companies values at over $1bn
- A global leader in diplomacy and development: 4th largest diplomatic network: 281 posts in 178 countries and territories; One of the largest funders of the WHO, increasing funding by 30% over four years, and the largest funder of Gavi; One of the largest bilateral and multilateral donors to global education, committed to getting 40m more girls into school by 2025; One of the largest donors and funding members of COVAX, which will supply 1bn vaccine doses in 2021, vaccinating up to 500m people in over 90 developing countries; The UK has a seat in every major multilateral organisation: NATO, World Bank and IMF, OSCE, UN Human Rights Council in 2021-22, G7 (President 2021), Commonwealth, Founding member of the UN, P5 member of the UN Security Council, G20, Council of Europe
- A soft power superpower: 3rd ranked soft power in the world; The BBC is the most trusted broadcaster worldwide, reaching 468m people every week, in 42 languages; The British Council operates in over 100 countries
- Our economy: 11.5% of all global foreign-listed companies worldwide are listed on the London Stock Exchange; 5th largest economy in the world; The UK space industry generates an income of £14.8bn annually, with more satellites produced in Scotland than any European country; 3rd top destination for private technology investment, ahead of the rest of Europe
- A responsible cyber power: 3rd most powerful cyber nation in the world, ranking top in defence, intelligence, norms and offensive capabilities; Belfast is a world-leading cyber security hub, and a top international investment location for cyber security firms; UK cyber network covers 122 countries across 6 continents; Major sponsor of women in cyber across the globe, including 24 cyber fellowships in the Gulf and 14 across the Commonwealth
- A world leader in climate action: From 2021 to 2026, the UK will committee £11.6bn to International Climate Finance, including £3bn for nature financing; UK reduced its emissions by over 40% between 1990-2018; Wales is home to world-leading hydrogen research and development facilities, such as Cardiff University’s Gas Turbine Research Centre; Established the world’s first dedicated diplomatic green network - the Climate Change and Energy Network. UK’s climate finance has leveraged £4.1bn public and £2.2bn private finance for climate action across Africa, Asia and Latin America
The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (Integrated Review) concludes at an important moment for the United Kingdom. The world has changed considerably since the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, as has the UK’s place within it. Our departure from the European Union (EU) provides a unique opportunity to reconsider many aspects of our domestic and foreign policy, building on existing friendships but also looking further afield. We must exploit the freedom that comes with increased independence, such as the ability to forge new free trade deals. We must also do more to adapt to major changes in the world around us, including the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region. Our ability to cooperate more effectively with others, particularly like-minded partners, will become increasingly important to our prosperity and security in the decade ahead.
At the heart of the Integrated Review is an increased commitment to security and resilience, so that the British people are protected against threats. This starts at home, by defending our people, territory, critical national infrastructure (CNI), democratic institutions and way of life – and by reducing our vulnerability to the threat from states, terrorism and serious and organised crime (SOC).
In strengthening our homeland security, we will build on firm foundations in counter-terrorism, intelligence, cyber security and countering the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. We will seek to match this excellence in other areas, through enhanced capabilities and appropriate legal powers that equip us to meet rapidly changing threats. We will also ensure that science and technology (S&T) is elevated to the highest importance as a component of our national security, with a particular emphasis on growing our cyber power.
In keeping with our history, the UK will continue to play a leading international role in collective security, multilateral governance, tackling climate change and health risks, conflict resolution and poverty reduction. We accept the risk that comes with our commitment to global peace and stability, from our tripwire NATO presence in Estonia and Poland to on-the-ground support for UN peacekeeping and humanitarian relief. Our commitment to European security is unequivocal, through NATO, the Joint Expeditionary Force and strong bilateral relations. There are few more reliable and credible allies around the world than the UK, with the willingness to confront serious challenges and the ability to turn the dial on international issues of consequence.
The Integrated Review also signals a change of approach. Over the last decade, UK policy has been focused on preserving the post-Cold War ‘rules-based international system’ which has greatly benefited the UK and other nations. Today, however, the international order is more fragmented, characterised by intensifying competition between states over interests, norms and values. A defence of the status quo is no longer sufficient for the decade ahead.
The Integrated Review therefore recognises the need for a sharper and more dynamic focus in order to: adapt to a more competitive and fluid international environment; do more to reinforce parts of the international architecture that are under threat; and shape the international order of the future by working with others. In particular, we will increase our efforts to protect open societies and democratic values where they are being undermined; and to seek good governance and create shared rules in frontiers such as cyberspace and space.
Our foreign policy rests on strong domestic foundations, in particular our security, resilience and the strength of our economy. It also, crucially, depends on a bond of trust with the British people. Polling in the UK shows deep reserves of faith in bodies like the UN and NATO and the pillars of British defence such as the armed forces and the nuclear deterrent. This is bolstered by high levels of trust in the power of S&T to tackle domestic and international challenges, as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet the international order is only as robust, resilient and legitimate as the states that comprise it. Liberal democracies must do more to prove the benefits of openness – free and fair trade, the flow of capital and knowledge – to populations that have grown sceptical about its merits or been inadequately protected in the past from the downsides of globalisation. This means tackling the priority issues – health, security, economic well-being and the environment – that matter most to our citizens in their everyday lives. In the years ahead, our national security and international policy must do a better job of putting the interests and values of the British people at the heart of everything we do.
The Integrated Review
This publication sets out the principal conclusions of the Integrated Review. It comprises:
- The Prime Minister’s vision for the UK in 2030, from which the other outputs of the Integrated Review flow.
- The Government’s current assessment of the major trends that will shape the national security and international environment to 2030.
- A Strategic Framework that establishes the Government’s overarching national security and international policy objectives, with priority actions, to 2025.
- An outline of the approach we will take to implementing the Strategic Framework.
- A list of Spending Review (SR) 2020 decisions that support the Integrated Review, and a description of our use of evidence and the programme of domestic and international engagement which supported our work.
The document is intended as a guide for action for those responsible for aspects of national security and international policy across government, including in departments that would not previously have been considered part of the national security community. It will also inform spending decisions to be taken in future SRs.
The findings of the Integrated Review are publicly available so that the British people can understand how the Government will seek to protect and promote their interests and values. Given the Review’s strong emphasis on the need to work with others, we are also aware that it will be of interest to our allies and partners, especially in identifying the UK’s long-term objectives following our departure from the EU.
Our interests and our values: the glue that binds the Union
The Government’s first and overriding priority is to protect and promote the interests of the British people through our actions at home and overseas. The most important of these interests are:
- Sovereignty: the ability of the British people to elect their political representatives democratically in line with their constitutional traditions, and to do so free from coercion and manipulation. This encompasses the ability of citizens to protect their individual sovereignty within the rule of law, ensuring that their rights and liberties are protected, including online.
- Security: the protection of our people, territory, CNI, democratic institutions and way of life. Ensuring security in today’s world involves a growing range of activities: from tackling threats from states and non-state actors such as terrorists and organised crime groups; to building societal resilience so that we are better able to withstand risks and unexpected shocks, including future environmental and global health emergencies.
- Prosperity: the ability of the British people to enjoy a high level of economic and social well-being, supporting their families and seizing opportunities to improve their lives. This Government believes that true prosperity depends on the levelling-up of opportunity and doing more to share the benefits of economic growth across the UK. It also believes that our prosperity and security are mutually reinforcing.
These shared interests bind together the citizens of the United Kingdom, along with our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, giving us an advantage in an increasingly competitive global environment and a distinctive and influential voice in the world. It is as the United Kingdom that we boast armed forces with global reach and have one of the most extensive diplomatic networks in the world, promoting British interests and providing round-the-clock consular assistance to British nationals abroad. It is by combining the resources of our Union and pooling the expertise of our citizens in areas such as science and health that we are able to respond to global challenges and project our influence overseas. It is as the United Kingdom that in 2021 we will host the G7 in Cornwall and 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.
The Union is also bound by shared values that are fundamental to our national identity, democracy and way of life. These include a commitment to universal human rights, the rule of law, free speech and fairness and equality. The same essential values will continue to guide all aspects of our national security and international policy in the decade ahead, especially in the face of rising authoritarianism and the persistence of extremist ideologies. They are also expressed through our support for climate action and the UK’s leadership in poverty reduction around the world.
In most cases, the UK’s interests and values are closely aligned. A world in which democratic societies flourish and fundamental human rights are protected is one that is more conducive to our sovereignty, security and prosperity as a nation. In pursuing our goals to 2030, we will seek to make steady progress towards the protection and promotion of these values and democracy around the world.
At the same time, our approach will be realistic and adapted to circumstances. Our ability to tackle transnational challenges, from security to climate change, will depend on our capacity to work with a wide range of partners across the world, including those who do not necessarily share the same values.
The Government’s approach so far: Global Britain in action
The UK is a European country with global interests, as an open economy and a maritime trading nation with a large diaspora. Our future prosperity will be enhanced by our economic connections with dynamic parts of the world such as the Indo-Pacific, Africa and the Gulf, as well as trade with Europe. The precondition for Global Britain is the safety of our citizens at home and the security of the Euro-Atlantic region, where the bulk of the UK’s security focus will remain. As we look further afield, the future success of Global Britain requires us to understand the precise nature and extent of British strengths and the integrated offer we bring in other parts of the world. It is an approach that puts diplomacy first. As we engage more in the Indo-Pacific, for example, we will adapt to the regional balance of power and respect the interests of others – and seek to work with existing structures such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
What Global Britain means in practice is best defined by actions rather than words. The fundamentals of this Government’s approach to national security and international policy are reflected in the actions we have taken since the 2019 general election. They demonstrate an active approach to delivering in the interests of the British people: sustaining the UK’s openness as a society and economy, underpinned by a shift to a more robust position on security and deterrence. This runs alongside a renewed commitment to the UK as a force for good in the world - defending openness, democracy and human rights - and an increased determination to seek multilateral solutions to challenges like climate change and global health crises, as seen in our response to COVID-19.
For example, in seeking multilateral solutions, we have used the UK’s convening power on a range of issues across security, trade and development, including at the NATO Leaders Meeting of December 2019 and the Africa Investment Summit of January 2020. Under our ambitious environmental agenda, we have set a net zero target for 2050 and increased our commitment to International Climate Finance (ICF) to £11.6 billion. The UK also played a central role in negotiating the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature adopted in September 2020, committing world leaders to urgent action to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. These efforts have set up our year of leadership in 2021.
We have also led international efforts in response to COVID-19, under which we have:
- Hosted the Global Vaccine Summit in June 2020 and reinforced our position as the largest donor to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
- Committed up to £548 million to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) to help provide developing countries with 1 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021. We will also send the majority of any future surplus coronavirus vaccines from our supply to the COVAX scheme.
- Launched a five-point plan at the UN General Assembly to protect the world from future pandemics.
- Established an informal network of government, industry and academics to advise the G7 on accelerating the development and deployment of vaccines for new pathogens in future.
- Offered our expertise in genome sequencing to support other countries in tracking new variants, building on the work of British researchers in sequencing 50% of the global database of coronavirus genomes. The findings of the UK’s Recovery Trial - the world’s largest clinical trial for COVID-19 treatments - have also prevented over a million deaths worldwide.
In strengthening our defence and security, and to play our part in burden-sharing with allies, we have:
- Made the biggest sustained increase in defence spending since the end of the Cold War, exceeding NATO’s 2% spending guideline and strengthening our most important alliance.
- Deployed 300 UK troops to Mali in December 2020 to support the UN’s peacekeeping mission, providing highly-specialised reconnaissance capability.
- Increased funding for counter-terrorism (CT) policing and introduced new legislation to improve our tools for fighting terrorism and state threats, including the Covert Human Intelligence Source Act, the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill and the National Security and Investment Bill.
- Made a significant breakthrough in the fight against SOC in June 2020, when we infiltrated the encrypted communications of criminals under Operation Venetic - the UK’s largest ever law enforcement operation.
- Disrupted cyber-attacks targeting vital national infrastructure, publicly attributing attacks to state actors where we had compelling evidence to do so.
- Published a pioneering ethical framework in February 2021 to guide the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) across its missions - from tackling SOC to disrupting state-based disinformation campaigns.
- Demonstrated global leadership on reducing space threats, working with like-minded nations to deliver a UN General Assembly resolution that reshapes the international debate on threats to the space systems on which we rely.
As part of our efforts to defend human rights and support vulnerable people, we have:
- Introduced a new system of ‘Magnitsky’ sanctions to target human rights violators and abusers around the world. We were the first European country to announce sanctions against the regime in Belarus in September 2020.
- Offered British Nationals (Overseas) and their eligible family members the right to live and work in the UK, putting them on a path to British citizenship, when China breached a legally-binding agreement and imposed a repressive national security law on Hong Kong.
- Announced a package of measures to ensure that British organisations are neither complicit in nor profiting from the extensive human rights violations in Xinjiang, as part of our efforts to tackle modern slavery.
- Launched our tackling child sexual abuse strategy to drive action in the UK and internationally to disrupt and prevent offending, both online and offline.
- Supported vulnerable children’s education by funding the salaries of over 5,500 teachers in refugee camps in 10 countries through UNHCR. We have also adapted our bilateral programmes in response to COVID-19 to support girls who are hard to reach and at risk of leaving education permanently.
- Launched the Call to Action to Prevent Famine in September 2020 and appointed the UK’s first Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs. We have since pledged £180 million to tackle food insecurity and famine risk, providing aid to more than seven million vulnerable people in some of the world’s most dangerous places.
We have also pursued measures to enhance our long-term prosperity. For example:
- In under two years, we have secured trade agreements with 66 non-EU countries in addition to our Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU. We have also applied for accession to the CPTPP.
- We have published the 2025 UK border strategy, with the goal of creating a border that is efficient, smart and responsive.
- We have introduced a new points-based immigration system, including a new Global Talent Visa, to attract the best and brightest from around the world. This will ensure we can secure the talent we need for key sectors in our economy, treating EU and non-EU citizens equally.
- We have published a national research and development (R&D) roadmap. Learning from the successes of the Vaccines Taskforce, we have announced an independent Advanced Research and Invention Agency, which will be led by scientists with the freedom to identify and fund transformational science and technology at speed.
In 2021, we will build on this work by convening the G7 and hosting COP26 in partnership with Italy and the Global Partnership for Education with Kenya. Our most immediate priority will be to build back better from COVID-19, demonstrating the benefits of international cooperation. In addition, we will pursue an extensive multilateral agenda on climate change, global health, free and fair trade and economic resilience. We will continue to work with others to reform and strengthen the institutions that support those objectives, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Government’s long-term approach to 2030
To meet the Prime Minister’s vision for 2030, we will need a long-term strategic approach – combining all the instruments available to government – that continues to adapt to a changing international environment. This is a context defined by: geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts, such as China’s increasing international assertiveness and the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific; systemic competition, including between states, and between democratic and authoritarian values and systems of government; rapid technological change; and transnational challenges, such as climate change, biosecurity risks, terrorism and SOC.
Against this uncertain backdrop, the unifying purpose of the UK’s national security and international policy is to ensure that the things that define us as a nation – our open society and economy founded on democratic values – remain sources of strength and comparative advantage, driving prosperity and improving the well-being of people across the Union.
In the more contested environment of the 2020s, this requires us to be more active in creating a world in which open societies and economies can flourish, shaping the open international order of the future – championing free trade and global cooperation, tackling conflict and instability, and standing up for democracy and human rights. We must also strengthen our security and resilience against those who seek to coerce us, and make it harder for terrorists and organised crime groups to achieve their goals.
The ability to move swiftly and with greater agility, amplifying our strong, independent voice by working with others, will be the determining characteristic of the UK’s foreign policy following our departure from the EU. Our effectiveness will also depend on our ability to maintain a consistent level of international influence, maintaining the soft and hard power capabilities required to support this. We must be prepared to compete with others, and to find new ways to cooperate through creative diplomacy and multilateralism.
In the years ahead we will need to manage inevitable tensions and trade-offs: between our openness and the need to safeguard our people, economy and way of life through measures that increase our security and resilience; between competing and cooperating with other states, sometimes at the same time; and between our short-term commercial interests and our values. Maintaining a long-term perspective will help us navigate the path ahead. Preserving our freedom of action will also enable us to adapt to circumstances as they change.
Introducing our Strategic Framework to 2025
As the outcome of the Integrated Review, we have established a Strategic Framework, which responds to prevailing trends in the international context and is intended to provide handrails for future policy-making to deliver our long-term approach. The Framework sets the Government’s overarching national security and international policy objectives to 2025. It identifies how we can bring all the instruments available to the Government together to achieve these objectives. It does not provide detailed regional and country strategies or an exhaustive description of all the activity we will undertake in the coming years. Instead, it sets a foreign policy baseline and identifies priority actions, reflecting the need for flexibility in our approach and setting out where further policy work and new sub-strategies are required.
The Strategic Framework has been used to guide spending decisions under SR 2020, including departmental settlements and funding for several new initiatives (see Annex A). Future SRs will also be informed by this Framework and will provide further opportunities to align resources with ambition.
The four overarching and mutually supporting objectives set by the Strategic Framework are:
- Sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology: we will incorporate S&T as an integral element of our national security and international policy, fortifying the position of the UK as a global S&T and responsible cyber power. This will be essential in gaining economic, political and security advantages in the coming decade and in shaping international norms in collaboration with allies and partners. It will also drive prosperity at home and progress towards the three objectives that follow.
- Shaping the open international order of the future: we will use our convening power and work with partners to reinvigorate the international system. In doing so, we will ensure that it is one in which open societies and open economies can flourish as we move further into the digital age – creating a world that is more favourable to democracies and the defence of universal values. We will seek to reinforce and renew existing pillars of the international order – such as the UN and the global trading system – and to establish norms in the future frontiers of cyberspace, emerging technology, data and space.
- Strengthening security and defence at home and overseas: we will work with allies and partners to address challenges to our security in the physical world and online. NATO will remain the foundation of collective security in our home region of the Euro-Atlantic, where Russia remains the most acute threat to our security. We will also place greater emphasis on building our capacity and that of like-minded nations around the world in responding to a growing range of transnational state threats[footnote 1], radicalisation and terrorism, SOC and weapons proliferation.
- Building resilience at home and overseas: we will place greater emphasis on resilience, recognising that it is not possible to predict or prevent every risk to our security and prosperity – whether natural hazards such as extreme weather events or threats such as cyber-attacks. We will improve our own ability to anticipate, prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from risks – as well as that of our allies and partners, recognising the closely interconnected nature of our world. And we will prioritise efforts to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss - long-term challenges that if left unchecked threaten the future of humanity - in addition to building global health resilience.
The UK will not be able to achieve these objectives working alone: collective action and co-creation with our allies and partners will be vitally important in the decade ahead – leading by example where we have unique or significant strengths (such as in areas of medical science, green technologies and aspects of data and AI) and identifying where we are better placed to support others in leading the advance towards our shared goals.
The Government will need to combine a planned strategy – which sets long-term objectives, anticipates challenges along the way, and charts a course towards them – with an adaptive approach. Essential to this is deeper integration across government, building on the Fusion Doctrine introduced in the 2018 National Security Capability Review. A more integrated approach supports faster decision-making, more effective policy-making and more coherent implementation by bringing together defence, diplomacy, development, intelligence and security, trade and aspects of domestic policy in pursuit of cross-government, national objectives.
The logic of integration is to make more of finite resources within a more competitive world in which speed of adaption can provide decisive advantage. It is a response to the fact that adversaries and competitors are already acting in a more integrated way – fusing military and civilian technology and increasingly blurring the boundaries between war and peace, prosperity and security, trade and development, and domestic and foreign policy. It also recognises the fact that the distinction between economic and national security is increasingly redundant.
We are already taking major steps towards greater integration across government, including:
The creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), bringing our diplomatic and development expertise and policy together, as One HMG overseas.
The Integrated Operating Concept 2025, which will deepen integration of UK defence across the five operational domains and with other instruments of state power, and improve interoperability with allies.
New cross-cutting capabilities such as the Situation Centre, Counter Terrorism Operations Centre (CTOC), National Cyber Force (NCF) and a national capability in digital twinning.
Finally, the UK will also bring an integrated approach to working with others around the world – that is, we will combine hard and soft power, harness the public and private sector, and deploy British expertise from inside and outside government in pursuit of national objectives.
The principal continuities and changes in our approach
Our Strategic Framework involves significant continuities from the UK’s previous national security and international policy, adapted or upgraded to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming decade:
- The United States will remain our most important bilateral relationship, essential to key alliances and groups such as NATO and the Five Eyes, and our largest bilateral trading partner and inward investor. We will reinforce our cooperation in traditional policy areas such as security and intelligence and seek to bolster it in areas where together we can have greater impact, such as in tackling illicit finance.
- Collective security through NATO: the UK will remain the leading European Ally in NATO, working with Allies to deter nuclear, conventional and hybrid threats to our security, particularly from Russia. We will continue to exceed the NATO guideline of spending 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence, and to declare our nuclear and offensive cyber capabilities to Allies’ defence under our Article 5 commitment.
- CT and SOC: we will keep our citizens safe from terrorism, working at home and overseas to detect, disrupt and deter terrorist threats, and to address their underlying drivers. Our CT capabilities will be integrated in our new Counter Terrorism Operations Centre. We will also tackle SOC, strengthening the National Crime Agency and regional and local policing, and sustaining our international networks so that we are able to address the links between criminality from the local to international levels.
- Upholding universal human rights: we will continue to act as a force for good in standing up for human rights around the world, providing support to open societies and using our independent (‘Magnitsky-style’) sanctions regime to hold to account those involved in serious human rights violations and abuses.
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): we will remain a world-leading international development donor, committed to the global fight against poverty and to achieving the UN SDGs by 2030. We will support others to become more self-sufficient through trade and economic growth and increase our ability to achieve long-term change through combining our diplomatic and development expertise.
- Girls’ education: we will continue our efforts to ensure all girls have at least 12 years of quality education, using our aid spending and presidency - with Kenya - of the Global Partnership for Education summit in 2021 to make progress towards the global commitment to get 40 million more girls in developing countries into education by 2025.
- An open and innovative digital economy: we will establish the UK as a global services, digital and data hub. And the UK will remain one of the world’s most open economies, championing free and fair trade, welcoming inward investment under our plan for growth, and tackling illicit finance. We will use all our economic tools and our independent trade policy to create economic growth that is distributed more equitably across the UK and to diversify our supply chains in critical goods. Our new Investment Security Unit will safeguard British intellectual property and companies against national security risks, intervening in inward investment where necessary and proportionate.
Attaining our objectives under the Strategic Framework will also involve some significant changes and shifts in policy:
- Shaping the international order of the future: we will move from defending the status quo within the post-Cold War international system to dynamically shaping the post-COVID order, extending it in the future frontiers of cyberspace and space, and protecting democratic values. This will require active diplomacy, especially in using regulatory diplomacy to influence the rules, norms and standards governing technology and the digital economy; it will also require us to maximise our convening power and to do more to win elections for senior positions within multilateral institutions.
- Europe: the UK will remain deeply invested in the security and prosperity of Europe. Our exit from the EU means we have the opportunity to follow different economic and political paths where this is in our interests, and to mark a distinctive approach to foreign policy. Equally, we will work with the EU where our interests coincide - for example, in supporting the stability and security of our continent and in cooperating on climate action and biodiversity.
- Climate and biodiversity: we will lead sustained international action to accelerate progress towards net zero emissions by 2050 and build global climate resilience, starting with our presidency of COP26 in 2021 and our ICF commitment of £11.6 billion. And we will lead efforts to reset the world’s relationship with nature, including by committing £3 billion of our ICF to solutions that protect and restore nature.
- Science and technology: we will take a more active approach to building and sustaining strategic advantage through S&T in support of our national goals. We will create the enabling environment for a thriving S&T ecosystem in the UK and extend our international collaboration, ensuring that the UK’s successful research base translates into influence over the critical and emerging technologies that are central to geopolitical competition and our future prosperity. We will adopt an own-collaborate-access framework to guide government activity in priority areas of S&T, such as AI, quantum technologies and engineering biology.
- Responsible, democratic cyber power: we will adopt a comprehensive cyber strategy to maintain the UK’s competitive edge in this rapidly evolving domain. We will build a resilient and prosperous digital UK, and make much more integrated, creative and routine use of the UK’s full spectrum of levers - including the National Cyber Force’s offensive cyber tools - to detect, disrupt and deter our adversaries.
- Space: we will make the UK a meaningful actor in space, with an integrated space strategy which brings together military and civil space policy for the first time. We will support the growth of the UK commercial space sector, and ensure the UK has the capabilities to protect and defend our interests in a more congested and contested space domain - including through the new Space Command and the ability to launch British satellites from the UK by 2022.
- Indo-Pacific: we will pursue deeper engagement in the Indo-Pacific in support of shared prosperity and regional stability, with stronger diplomatic and trading ties. This approach recognises the importance of powers in the region such as China, India and Japan, and extends to others including South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. We will seek closer relations through existing institutions such as ASEAN and seek accession to the CPTPP.
- China: we will do more to adapt to China’s growing impact on many aspects of our lives as it becomes more powerful in the world. We will invest in enhanced China-facing capabilities, through which we will develop a better understanding of China and its people, improving our ability to respond to the systemic challenge that China poses to our security, prosperity and values - and those of our allies and partners. We will continue to pursue a positive trade and investment relationship with China, while ensuring our national security and values are protected. We will also cooperate with China in tackling transnational challenges such as climate change.
- Global health: we will work to strengthen global health security, including international pandemic preparedness, through the Prime Minister’s five-point plan. We will seek reform of the WHO, increasing our funding by 30% to £340 million over the next four years, and we will prioritise supporting health systems and access to new health technologies using our Official Development Assistance (ODA).
- Armed forces: we will create armed forces that are both prepared for warfighting and more persistently engaged worldwide through forward deployment, training, capacity-building and education. They will have full-spectrum capabilities, embracing the newer domains of cyberspace and space and developing high-tech capabilities in other domains, such as the Future Combat Air System. They will also be able to keep pace with changing threats posed by adversaries, with greater investment in rapid technology development and adoption.
- State threats: we will bolster our efforts to detect, deter and respond to state threats, to protect our people, infrastructure, economy and values from those who seek to do them harm. We will introduce new legislation to give our security and intelligence agencies and police the powers they need to tackle the challenges we will face in the coming decade.
- Domestic and international resilience: we will improve our ability – and that of our allies and partners – to anticipate, prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from risks to our security and prosperity. It will be essential to take a whole-of-society approach to resilience across the Union, in addition to cooperating with international partners to address challenges such as climate change and global health risks. Learning from COVID-19, we will improve our ability to anticipate and respond to crises by establishing a cross-government Situation Centre in the Cabinet Office and developing a national capability in digital twinning.
The national security and international environment to 2030
This section describes the Government’s assessment of the strategic context to 2030. Its judgements are drawn from the evidence base assembled during the Integrated Review (see Annex B), including external consultation, the public call for evidence and internal analysis.
The nature and distribution of global power is changing as we move towards a more competitive and multipolar world. Over the coming decade, we judge that four overarching trends will be of particular importance to the UK and the changing international order:
- Geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts: such as China’s increasing power and assertiveness internationally, the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific to global prosperity and security, and the emergence of new markets and growth of the global middle class.
- Systemic competition: the intensification of competition between states and with non-state actors, manifested in: a growing contest over international rules and norms; the formation of competing geopolitical and economic blocs of influence and values that cut across our security, economy and the institutions that underpin our way of life; the deliberate targeting of the vulnerabilities within democratic systems by authoritarian states and malign actors; and the testing of the boundary between war and peace, as states use a growing range of instruments to undermine and coerce others.
- Rapid technological change: technological developments and digitisation will reshape our societies, economies and change relationships – both between states, and between the citizen, the private sector and the state. S&T will bring enormous benefits but will also be an arena of intensifying systemic competition.
- Transnational challenges: such as climate change, global health risks, illicit finance, SOC and terrorism. These threaten our shared security and prosperity, requiring collective action and multilateral cooperation to address them. Of these transnational challenges, climate change and biodiversity loss present the most severe tests to global resilience and will require particularly urgent action.
These trends will overlap and interact, and the long-term effects of COVID-19 will influence their trajectory in ways that are currently difficult to predict.
The realistic optimum scenario is an international order in which these trends can be managed effectively, with nations coming together to revive multilateral cooperation, strengthen global governance and harness the opportunities ahead for growth and prosperity. We must also prepare for the possibility that the post-COVID international order will be increasingly contested and fragmented, reducing global cooperation and making it harder to protect our interests and values. The Strategic Framework that follows this chapter is designed to help us navigate the challenges ahead, laying out how we will work with others, maximising opportunities and minimising risks to the UK
Venn diagram of the four main global trends to 2030 as highlighted in the Integrated Review: geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts; systemic competition; rapid technological change; transnational challenges. In each circle there are icons representing the different themes that come under each trend.
Geopolitical and geoeconomic shifts: moving towards a multipolar world
There will be significant areas of geopolitical and geoeconomic continuity in the 2020s: the US will remain an economic, military and diplomatic superpower, and the UK’s most important strategic ally. The Euro-Atlantic region will remain critical to the UK’s security and prosperity; partnerships beyond the immediate European neighbourhood will also remain important. Russia will remain the most acute direct threat to the UK, and the US will continue to ask more from its allies in Europe in sharing the burden of collective security.
Overall, however, the distribution of global political and economic power – both within and between states, and between regions – will continue to change, with direct and indirect implications for UK interests. By 2030, it is likely that the world will have moved further towards multipolarity, with the geopolitical and economic centre of gravity moving eastward towards the Indo-Pacific.
China as a systemic competitor. China’s increasing power and international assertiveness is likely to be the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s. The scale and reach of China’s economy, size of its population, technological advancement and increasing ambition to project its influence on the global stage, for example through the Belt and Road Initiative, will have profound implications worldwide. Open, trading economies like the UK will need to engage with China and remain open to Chinese trade and investment, but they must also protect themselves against practices that have an adverse effect on prosperity and security. Cooperation with China will also be vital in tackling transnational challenges, particularly climate change and biodiversity loss.
Shifts in the global balance of economic power. Drivers of growth in the global economy are likely to continue moving to the south and east, in particular towards the Indo-Pacific region. The rapid growth of emerging markets is also expected to increase the size of the global middle class, from 3.8 billion people in 2018 to 5.3 billion in 2030, increasing opportunities for trade in higher value-added goods and services. This will offer considerable opportunity for countries like the UK with strengths in these areas.
Global growth and economic stability. Before COVID-19, the world was already facing a decade of weak growth. COVID-19 has caused a deep global recession and the economic impact of the pandemic is likely to dominate the first half of the decade, with the shape of the recovery uncertain. Further economic shocks are possible, for example caused by the uneven impact of new technologies across and within states. The expected shift away from fossil fuels is likely to present economic challenges, particularly for oil-producing countries.
Challenges to an open global economy. Globalisation began to stall after the 2008-09 financial crisis. COVID-19 will likely accelerate the trend towards more regional and national approaches, although trade flows recovered relatively quickly following the initial shock. The momentum for trade liberalisation may continue to slow and cases of protectionism increase, driven by political and economic conditions within states and the increasingly aggressive use of economic and trade policy as a lever in competition between states.
Decreasing global poverty. Global poverty has reduced markedly in recent decades, and is projected to fall to under 5% by 2050. After the immediate shock of COVID-19, the momentum towards poverty reduction is likely to resume, with absolute poverty estimated to be almost eliminated in Asia and Latin America in the 2030s. Under current trends, however, Africa will increasingly be left behind: by 2045, it is likely that around 85% of the poorest billion people will live in Africa.
Improvements in global education. Over the coming decades, technology is likely to significantly improve access to and the quality of education globally. By 2050, almost anyone is likely to have easy access to online education, with technology becoming increasingly portable, accessible and high-speed. This is likely to help sustain improvements in global literacy rates. In 2000, 81% of the world’s population was able to read; by 2016 this had increased to 86% and by 2050 it is likely to be around 95%.
Changing demographics. The global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030. Population growth will be greatest in sub-Saharan Africa, interacting with other trends, including climate change, poverty and conflict and instability. Globally, demographic imbalances will become more pronounced, with ageing populations in more parts of the world.
Geopolitical importance of middle powers. Increasing great power competition is unlikely to mean a return to Cold War-style blocs. Instead, the influence of middle powers is likely to grow in the 2020s, particularly when they act together. In this context, the Indo-Pacific will be of increasing geopolitical and economic importance, with multiple regional powers with significant weight and influence, both alone and together. Competition will play out there in regional militarisation, maritime tensions, and a contest over the rules and norms linked to trade and technology.
Challenges to democratic governance. The geopolitical role of non-state actors, in particular large tech companies, is likely to continue to grow. In some democracies, inequality – made more visible by digital technology – may increase social and political dissatisfaction. Governments may struggle to satisfy popular demands for security and prosperity, with trust further undermined through disinformation. Authoritarian states will face and confront similar challenges with a different toolkit, including the use of technologies for surveillance and political control.
Systemic competition: a more contested international environment
In a multipolar world, there will be a growing contest between states and groups of states to shape the international environment. Non-state actors – ranging from large tech companies to organised crime groups – will participate in this competition, increasing its complexity.
Systemic competition will determine the shape of the future international order: the extent to which it is open, upholding the free exchange of ideas and trade, and facilitating cooperation on transnational challenges; or fragmented and broadly divided into geopolitical neighbourhoods and technological ecosystems, eroding cooperation between nations and enabling the spread of authoritarianism. Competition is likely to be ‘systemic’ in a number of ways:
Competition between political systems. Ideological competition between different types of political system will increase. On current trends, the 15-year decline in democracy and pluralism will continue to 2030, accelerated by COVID-19. Tensions between democratic and authoritarian states are highly likely to become more pronounced, as authoritarian states seek to export their domestic models, undermine open societies and economies, and shape global governance in line with their values.
Competition to shape the international order. Competition will increase the strains on the existing multilateral architecture, weakening established rules and norms that govern international conduct. In some areas, such as emerging technology or space, there will be a growing contest - in which non-state actors will play an important role - to shape new rules, norms and standards, and to control access to shared resources such as space. Those parts of the international architecture where multilateral cooperation adds value, such as the International Financial Institutions, are more likely to thrive. Conversely, where multilateral approaches are blocked, nations will likely caucus in smaller, regional or like-minded groups.
Competition across multiple spheres. Competition will continue within the conventional military domains of land, sea and air, and will grow in other spheres, including technology, cyberspace and space, further shaping the wider geopolitical environment. Systemic competition will further test the line between peace and war, as malign actors use a wider range of tools - such as economic statecraft, cyber-attacks, disinformation and proxies - to achieve their objectives without open confrontation or conflict. The UK is likely to remain a priority target for such threats. Our ability to deter aggression will be challenged by new techniques and technologies.
A deteriorating security environment. Proliferation of CBRN weapons, advanced conventional weapons and novel military technologies will increase the risk and intensity of conflict and pose significant challenges to strategic stability. The advantages offered by high-tech capabilities may be eroded by affordable, easily-available, low-tech threats such as drones and improvised explosive devices. Opportunistic states will increasingly seek strategic advantage through exploiting and undermining democratic systems and open economies. Russia will be more active around the wider European neighbourhood, and Iran and North Korea will continue to destabilise their regions. The significant impact of China’s military modernisation and growing international assertiveness within the Indo-Pacific region and beyond will pose an increasing risk to UK interests.
Growing conflict and instability. The last decade saw an increase in violent conflict globally. 2016 and 2019 witnessed the highest number of active armed conflicts internationally since 1946 - the majority being civil wars involving external actors. To 2030, conflict and instability will remain prevalent and may increase unless concerted action is taken to address underlying political, social, economic and environmental drivers, especially in fragile states. Driven by systemic competition, external powers will likely remain involved in national and regional conflicts, influencing their course in pursuit of their own advantage. This will increase the risk of conflicts escalating.
Economic statecraft. More states will adopt economic statecraft as a lever in systemic competition. As well as greater protectionism and economic nationalism, this will sometimes include the deliberate use of economic tools – from conventional economic policy to illicit finance – to target and undermine the economic and security interests of rivals. There will be increased competition for scarce natural resources, such as critical minerals including rare earth elements, and control of supply may be used as leverage on other issues.
Cyberspace. Cyberspace will be an increasingly contested domain, used by state and non-state actors. Proliferation of cyber capability to countries and organised crime groups, along with the growing everyday reliance on digital infrastructure, will increase the risks of direct and collateral damage to the UK. Consequently, cyber power will become increasingly important. There will be a struggle to shape the global digital environment between ‘digital freedom’ and ‘digital authoritarianism’, which will have significant implications for real-world governance.
Space. Space will be a domain of increasing opportunity, as the application of new technologies in space enables new possibilities – from commercial opportunities to international development and climate action. But increasing commercial and military use of space will make it an important sphere of competition; there will be considerable risks to strategic stability if this is not managed and regulated effectively.
Rapid technological change: science and technology as a metric of power
S&T will be of central importance to the strategic context: critical to the functioning of economies and societies, reshaping political systems and a source of both cooperation and competition between states. This will unfold in a number of ways:
A rapidly changing landscape. The S&T landscape has changed significantly since 2015 and the pace of change will accelerate further to 2030. Novel technologies and applications are being developed and adopted faster than ever before. AI is accelerating scientific discovery; quantum technologies are expected to bring advances in medical imaging and in measuring electric, magnetic and gravitational fields; and advances in clean technologies will equip us with new and cheaper tools to tackle climate change. New analytical techniques are producing greater insight from increasing volumes of data, enabling innovation.
S&T as an arena of systemic competition. Over the coming decade, the ability to advance and exploit S&T will be an increasingly important metric of global power, conferring economic, political and military advantages. The tech ‘superpowers’ are investing to maintain their lead. At the same time, many more countries are now able to compete in S&T, while large technology companies are able to grow more powerful by absorbing innovations produced by small companies. Competition is therefore intensifying, shaped in particular by multinational firms with the backing of states, some of which take a ‘whole-of-economy’ approach to ensure dominance in critical areas. Maintaining competitive edge will rely on preeminence in and access to technology - as well as access to the human and natural resources needed to harness it - and the ability to protect intellectual property. As the volume of data grows exponentially, the ability to generate and use it to drive innovation will be a crucial enabler of strategic advantage through S&T.
New challenges to security, society and individual rights. Technology will create new vulnerabilities to hostile activity and attack in domains such as cyberspace and space, notably including the spread of disinformation online. It will undermine social cohesion, community and national identity as individuals spend more time in a virtual world and as automation reshapes the labour market. While the exploitation of personal data will support the growth of innovation, it will also pose challenges to individual privacy and liberty, including through the increased availability of surveillance technologies.
Technology and data standards. Technological advances have always driven global rule-making. But in the years ahead, the enormous pace of change is likely to result in a growing gap between what technological advances make possible and the limits of existing global governance. This will make frontier spaces - and the technologies, infrastructure and data underpinning their use - subject to intense competition over the development of rules, norms and standards.
Transnational challenges: tests of resilience and international cooperation
COVID-19 will not be the only global crisis of the 2020s. The world faces transnational challenges which overlap, reinforce each other and require a global response. This will include, for example: climate change and biodiversity loss driving poverty, instability and migration; states continuing to use organised crime groups as proxies in systemic competition; and technology both facilitating and helping to detect terrorism, SOC and illicit finance.
Climate change. Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry increased from five billion tonnes to more than 36 billion between 1950 and 2019. Significant action to decarbonise the global economy is needed by 2030 to prevent climate change from accelerating rapidly and possibly irreversibly: under current policies the world is heading for around 3.5 degrees of warming by the end of the century, with real risks of even higher warming. Economic recovery from COVID-19 offers a chance to accelerate the transition to net zero. At the same time, the impact of existing climate change will cause increasing damage: more frequent and intense events such as extreme heat, storms and rain, leading to increased flooding, landslides and other impacts such as wildfires. This can amplify displacement and migration - increasing food and water insecurity - and damage ecosystems. The effects will be felt most acutely in sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia and the Middle East, with a disproportionate impact on areas that are already fragile and on the people who live in them.
Biodiversity loss. Global biodiversity is already in unprecedented decline: 75% of the world’s land surface and 66% of the ocean has been significantly altered and degraded by human activity and an estimated one million species are threatened with extinction. To 2030, unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, population growth and technological developments will cause further biodiversity loss, as a result of land and sea use change, overexploitation, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species. This will have particularly severe consequences for the world’s poor and vulnerable.
Global health. Infectious disease outbreaks are likely to be more frequent to 2030. Many will be zoonoses – diseases caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites that spread from animals to humans – as population growth drives the intensification of agriculture and as the loss of habitats increases interaction between humans and animals. Another novel pandemic remains a realistic possibility. On current trends, global deaths related to antimicrobial resistance will rise from 700,000 to 10 million per year by 2050.
Migratory flows. Migration will remain a permanent feature of the global landscape. Demographic change, climate change, biodiversity loss, conflict and instability and poverty – exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19 – will drive increased population movements, with Europe the destination for mass migration from the Middle East and Africa in particular. But interstate and intrastate migration is likely to have more stressful effects in other parts of the world.
Radicalisation and terrorism. Terrorism will remain a major threat over the coming decade, with a more diverse range of material and political causes, new sources of radicalisation and evolving tactics. In the UK, the main sources of terrorist threat are from Islamist and Northern Ireland-related terrorism, and far-right, far-left, anarchist and single-issue terrorism. In Northern Ireland, there remains a risk that some groups could seek to encourage and exploit political instability. Overseas, poor governance and disorder, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, is likely to increase space for terrorist and extremist groups to operate. There is a realistic possibility that state sponsorship of terrorism and the use of proxies will increase. It is likely that a terrorist group will launch a successful CBRN attack by 2030.
Serious and organised crime and illicit finance. SOC will continue to have a significant impact on UK citizens. The scale and complexity of SOC will likely increase – aided by new technologies – and will adapt to events faster than governments. Most SOC will continue to be transnational: criminals will source illicit goods, exploit the vulnerable and defraud UK citizens and businesses from overseas. SOC will also enable threats such as state threats and terrorism, and will undermine regional stability, especially in post-conflict zones. It will continue to be facilitated by cross-border flows of illicit finance, with tens of billions of pounds likely to be laundered through the UK every year.
Sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology
The rapid pace of change in science and technology (S&T) is transforming many aspects of our lives, fundamentally reshaping our economy and our society, and unlocking previously inconceivable improvements in global health, well-being and prosperity. As competition grows between states, S&T will also increase in importance as an arena of systemic competition. In the years ahead, countries which establish a leading role in critical and emerging technologies will be at the forefront of global leadership.
The UK has a strong record of innovation in S&T - discovering graphene, decoding the structure of DNA, and contributing life-saving treatments and a vaccine to the global effort against COVID-19. In the fast-evolving and more contested environment ahead, the UK must take an active approach to building and sustaining a durable competitive edge in S&T - anticipating, assessing and taking action on our S&T priorities to deliver strategic advantage for the UK. This will become increasingly important to our domestic prosperity and our international relationships in the coming decade. It is also an essential foundation for all the objectives in this Strategic Framework: ensuring that the UK has the tools and influence to shape a future international order based on democratic values; bolster our security and maintain military advantage; and contribute to building a more resilient world.
Our first goal is to grow the UK’s science and technology power in pursuit of strategic advantage. Achieving this objective requires a whole-of-UK effort, in which the Government’s primary role is to create the enabling environment for a thriving S&T ecosystem of scientists, researchers, inventors and innovators, across academia, the private sector, regulators and standards bodies, working alongside the manufacturing base to take innovations through to markets. It also requires strategic choices and decisions by the Government, both on S&T priorities and on how we use our national S&T capability in support of wider policy goals - from net zero through to economic growth.
Our second goal is to cement the UK’s position as a responsible and democratic cyber power, able to protect and promote our interests in, and through, cyberspace. The cyber domain is unique in that it is man-made, subject to rapid technological change, and at an early stage in the evolution of its rules and norms; all of which combine to create enormous opportunity and risk. Over the past decade we have established the UK as a cyber power, building cutting-edge defensive and offensive cyber capabilities, and a leading cyber security sector. In the digital age, sustaining this competitive edge in cyber will be a fundamental component of strategic advantage through S&T.
Growing the UK’s science and technology power
The UK is already an S&T power. As well as our deep and broad research base, we are ranked fourth in the Global Innovation Index (2020), attract significant venture capital - at a level that exceeds that of Germany, France and Sweden combined - and are a world leader in applied innovation and transformative tech.
The UK nevertheless needs to maximise its innovation potential, ensuring that ideas translate into practical applications which enhance everyday life and contribute to productivity, economic growth and international influence. A common problem in the UK innovation landscape is that although support is available for early-stage R&D, it often falls away before ideas are fully commercialised and brought to market. As a result, innovation and intellectual property sometimes move out of the UK before companies are able to mature into commercial successes.
Building a durable competitive edge in S&T depends on ensuring that the success of our research base translates into influence over the design and use of critical and emerging technologies. This requires the creation of a favourable environment - ranging from a talented workforce and strong science infrastructure, to speed of commercialisation, our ability to attract trusted international partners, and ethical and legal frameworks that foster public trust and early adoption. To achieve this, our priority actions will be:
- To build on the UK’s successful S&T base. The Government has committed to increasing economy-wide investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, including through inward investment. Through the R&D roadmap, we will ensure that public R&D spending continues to support discovery research and increase investment in applied research, development and implementation. We will also take greater account of place-based outcomes, ensuring that public spending on R&D unlocks growth and societal benefit across the UK. We will accept more risk in our public investments, supporting the most creative, innovative and radical ideas for future development. We will invest at least £800 million to set up an independent body for high-risk, high-reward research: the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA), which will back breakthrough technologies and basic research through experimentation.
- To unlock the full potential of the UK’s S&T and data ecosystem by improving and accelerating the ‘pull through’ from research to commercialisation. The Government will use all the levers at its disposal to develop the infrastructure, business and regulatory environment to support innovation and adoption across the UK economy. We will do this in partnership with all of the British S&T community, within Government and across the devolved administrations, academia, the private sector, the financial sector, regulators and standards bodies. The Government’s plan for growth and the digital and national data strategies will be core planks of this effort, supported by the pro-growth, pro-innovation regulatory reforms set out in the white paper on regulation for the fourth industrial revolution. We will improve access to finance, including from specialist investors able to provide longer-term capital to promising companies across all stages of growth. We will make the UK the best place in the world to be a researcher, inventor or innovator, strengthening our talent offer through the newly-established Office for Talent and the introduction of the Global Talent Visa.
- To better protect our intellectual property and sensitive research. We will support the research and innovation sector through the Trusted Research programme and act to protect our organisations, capabilities and skills where there is a national security case – including by ensuring companies can access investment safely.
Attracting global talent to the UK
The UK’s ambition is to become the top destination for international talent, offering the professional opportunities, skills environment and high quality of life to attract the best scientists, researchers and innovators worldwide to come to the UK and make it their home.
The newly-established Office for Talent will ensure the UK’s talent offer is stronger than ever for students, those building their careers, and those who are already world leaders in their fields. It will make it easier for those with the most talent, potential, energy and creativity to come to the UK from around the world - reaching out to those with the skills the UK needs and helping them to understand the opportunities on offer.
This ambition will be supported by the UK’s new points-based immigration system, which will ensure that the immigration process is simple, easy and quick, supporting a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy. The Global Talent Visa provides a new route for talented and promising individuals to come and work in the UK. We are also introducing a new Graduate Route to make it easier for some of the best young international graduates to secure skilled jobs in the UK and continue making a valuable contribution to our economy and society.
- To improve our ability to identify, build and use the UK’s strategic S&T capabilities. We will establish new S&T horizon-scanning, assessment and policy capabilities within government, to anticipate and assess priorities as we pursue strategic advantage. We will also adopt an own-collaborate-access framework (see S&T power textbox) to guide strategic decisions on building and using capability in priority areas of S&T: first, where the potential for social and economic benefit is greatest, or progress helps tackle the most pressing global challenges; and second, where the UK is capable of establishing a leading position, or future dependence on non-allied sources of supply carries unacceptable risks to our national interests.
- To build a strong and varied network of international S&T partnerships, as an essential component of the own-collaborate-access framework and to shape the responsible use of technology. We will develop a new framework for international science partnerships, putting S&T at the heart of our alliances and partnerships worldwide. Our new Technology Envoy to the US will strengthen the UK’s relationships in Silicon Valley. The UK-EU deal will support continued collaboration between researchers and scientists, through Horizon Europe, the Euratom Research and Training programme and Copernicus. We will maintain the UK’s leadership in multilateral research and innovation organisations and networks such as Eureka. And we will continue to use ODA to support R&D partnerships with developing countries, sharing research expertise in support of the SDGs.
- To adopt ‘business science’ approaches, using commercial ways of working within government. This will support the own-collaborate-access framework, ensuring that the UK is able to access a wide range of technology without buying it outright or inventing it here: improving models for partnerships; pooling resources within government, across the public and private sectors, and with other countries; and using acquisitions and options-based deals alongside cooperation and collaboration.
The Government will also develop its partnership with academia and industry in supporting the technological innovation integral to the UK’s national security, for which it has a fundamental responsibility. The Government funds roughly 85% of military R&D, delivering both essential capabilities and strengthening the wider S&T ecosystem.
Through the Ministry of Defence (MOD) science and technology strategy 2020, we will prioritise higher-risk research to support the modernisation of our armed forces. Over the next four years, we will invest at least £6.6 billion of defence funding in advanced and next-generation R&D to deliver an enduring military edge in areas including space, directed energy weapons, and advanced high-speed missiles. A network of MOD innovation hubs within UK technology clusters and investment in Defence and Security Accelerator challenges will improve the ‘pull through’ of this R&D investment into cutting-edge equipment. The forthcoming defence and security industrial strategy will support this, creating a more certain environment for industry that enables investment to support innovation and convert it into deployable national security capabilities and future commercial opportunities.
We will also explore more agile and affordable routes to innovation that strengthen our wider national security. The National Security Strategic Investment Fund (NSSIF) is the Government’s corporate venturing arm for dual-use advanced technologies, supporting long-term equity investment to accelerate the adoption of new capabilities in areas such as audio and visual processing, computational behavioural analysis and identity technologies. And through the National Security Technology and Innovation Exchange (NSTIx), we are taking a coordinated and systematic approach to technology development, including by establishing a cross-government network of co-creation spaces to bring together expertise and specialist facilities from across government partners, the private sector and leading academic S&T communities. This will support the development of effective, user-driven technology at pace and at scale in areas that are critical to national security, including data science, AI and protective security.
A framework for S&T power: own-collaborate-access
Growing the UK’s S&T power requires a long-term approach to building and using capability in the most important future fields. The UK will seek to establish a leading role in critical and emerging technologies where there is a realistic prospect of delivering strategic advantage. A new ‘own-collaborate-access’ framework will guide our approach:
- Own: where the UK has leadership and ownership of new developments, from discovery to large-scale manufacture and commercialisation. This will always involve elements of collaboration and access.
- Collaborate: where the UK can provide unique contributions that allow us to collaborate with others to achieve our goals.
- Access: where the UK will seek to acquire critical S&T from elsewhere, through options, deals and relationships.
The Government’s role in delivering the framework is as an enabler of the private sector and wider S&T community, including as a user and acquirer of technology. The Government’s action may include: for ‘own’ - better funding, regulation and incentives for academia and businesses, from research to commercialisation; for ’collaborate’ - identifying strategic partners and creating the market and regulatory conditions for international collaboration; and for ‘access’ - schemes for investment in S&T companies.
Case study: quantum computing as an example of quantum technologies. Quantum computing has the potential to unlock a step-change in computing power, with wide-ranging applications across key sectors including pharma, health, logistics, information technology, energy, chemicals and finance. The UK is well placed to emerge as a global leader in the quantum revolution. Our world-class researchers and facilities have enabled the UK to achieve a deep understanding of quantum science, and we have a diverse and growing ecosystem of companies able to compete in this emerging global market. New quantum systems will require the development of much smaller and more robust components such as specialist lasers, high vacuum equipment, electronic control systems and photon detectors; all areas where the UK has significant industrial capability. Through the National Quantum Computing Centre and the wider National Quantum Technologies Programme, the Government will support the establishment of a sustainable quantum computing sector in the UK - through grant funding, contracts for prototypes, discovery and training programmes, action to stimulate the right business environment, and supporting links to the growing international community.
Case study: engineering biology. Engineering biology is the application of engineering principles to the design and re-design of biological systems, harnessing advances in areas such as genomics and gene editing, processing power and machine learning. It has the potential to deliver significant advances across a range of areas including defence and security, the environment and the economy. The UK is in a strong position in this rapidly-developing sector, but needs to accelerate commercialisation - which the Government will support through mechanisms to help research and develop, engineer and manufacture at scale in the UK under the National Engineering Biology Programme.
Case study: AI. The UK has established an early lead in AI thanks to our home-grown research, a healthy start-up scene and a history of innovation in computing. We drive AI policy through the Office for AI, alongside the UK AI Council, and through a nearly £1 billion partnership between government, industry and academia. This is strengthening the UK’s position as a global leader in developing AI technologies by: improving the supply of AI talent and boosting high-level skills, including through Turing AI Fellowships; increasing investment in AI research and innovation; supporting the effective and ethical adoption of AI and data technologies; and identifying international opportunities to collaborate on AI R&D, ethics and regulation. Our investments are growing across defence and security sectors, rapidly advancing AI capabilities in autonomy, cyber security, logistics and intelligence. We are reviewing our AI needs for the next decade, to ensure that the UK stays ahead of growing international competition.
Responsible, democratic cyber power
Cyber power is the ability to protect and promote national interests in and through cyberspace: to realise the benefits that cyberspace offers to our citizens and economy, to work with partners towards a cyberspace that reflects our values, and to use cyber capabilities to influence events in the real world. Like wider S&T power, cyber power depends on the Government pursuing a whole-of-nation effort, bringing together industry and academia in partnership. It also involves engaging citizens, who have a central role to play in our national cyber security.
In the digital age, the UK’s cyber power will be an ever more important lever for delivering our national goals. Cyber power protects our national security and the resilience of our CNI. It supports economic growth, enabling businesses and individuals to transition confidently to the digital world, boosting productivity and driving the innovation that will create new skilled jobs. It also creates new ways to pursue and protect our interests, enabling us to detect, deter and disrupt our adversaries in cyberspace and on the ground, and to influence the global environment to ensure a safe and beneficial digital future for all.
Since 2011, the Government has pursued an ambitious national strategy and sustained programme of investment that have established the UK as a global leader in cyber, emulated by others. We have developed cutting-edge cyber capabilities, including through the establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Cyber Force (NCF). As well as building the capabilities needed for national security, this investment has also supported the development of a wider cyber ecosystem, including a thriving cyber security sector, with over 1,200 companies and 43,000 skilled jobs across the UK.
We will need to keep adapting, innovating and investing to maintain and extend the UK’s competitive edge as a responsible, democratic cyber power. Technology is changing, as is the way individuals and organisations make use of it. And our allies and adversaries are also investing in their capabilities, with adversaries constantly finding ways to exploit it for their own ends.
Cyber security is the foundation for cyber power, and has been the primary focus of our strategy to date. However, to cement our competitive edge, we will now adopt a comprehensive cyber strategy, taking a ‘whole-of-cyber’ approach that considers the full range of our capabilities and gives greater weight to building advantage in critical cyber technologies, as well as to international action to influence the future of cyberspace. To oversee this approach, we have formed a ministerial small group to cohere cyber decision-making across government.
The Government will publish the UK’s new cyber strategy in 2021. Under this strategy, our priority actions will be:
- To strengthen the UK’s cyber ecosystem, enabling a whole-of-nation approach to cyber and deepening the partnership between government, academia and industry. We will take a more coherent approach to skills, recruitment, R&D, exercising and innovation across defensive and offensive cyber: investing in an integrated education and training system to grow diverse talent; supporting a UK research base that can compete with allies and adversaries, as well as an industrial base that delivers innovative and effective cyber security products and services that help everyone stay safe in cyberspace; and developing regulations and policies that encourage a world-class cyber security ecosystem.
- To build a resilient and prosperous digital UK, where citizens feel safe online and confident that their data is protected. We will enable the digital transformation of the UK economy, bolstering our cyber security and ensuring our people, businesses and organisations are empowered to adopt new technology, and are able to withstand and recover from cyber-attacks. We will continue to invest in the NCSC, address critical vulnerabilities in the public sector and our CNI, including our data and digital infrastructure, and ensure the lessons from cyber-attacks are acted upon.
- To take the lead in the technologies vital to cyber power, such as microprocessors, secure systems design, quantum technologies and new forms of data transmission. We will support our growing industrial base, working within the own-collaborate-access framework to build advantage in critical technologies, pursue economic opportunities and, where needed, mitigate the risks of dependence on non-allied sources of supply. We will put in place the cutting-edge policy, regulatory and legal frameworks to enable the adoption of emerging applications of digital technology - for example in smart cities. We will also work with others to ensure the rules and standards governing digital technologies are rooted in democratic values.
- To promote a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace, as described in 2.3, working with other governments and industry, and drawing on the UK’s thought leadership in cyber security. We will also deepen and broaden our international partnerships to advance our shared security, prosperity and values, through stronger cyber resilience and joint action to uphold international norms, holding adversaries to account for breaches.
- To detect, disrupt and deter our adversaries. We will build seamless systems to detect and act with industry on cyber threat information at scale and pace. We will also make much more integrated, creative and routine use of the UK’s full spectrum of levers - our diplomatic, military, intelligence, economic, legal and strategic communications tools, and the new NCF (see textbox) - to impose costs on our adversaries, deny their ability to harm UK interests, and make the UK a more difficult operating environment. This will include tackling malicious activity in cyberspace and taking action online with real-world effect, for example in countering terrorist or organised crime groups, and to support military operations. We will also strengthen our criminal justice response to cyber-attacks.
Transforming the UK’s cyber capabilities: the National Cyber Force
Established in 2020, the NCF conducts targeted, responsible offensive cyber operations to support the UK’s national security priorities, bringing together defence and intelligence capabilities.
The NCF draws together personnel from GCHQ and the MOD, as well as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), under one unified command for the first time. Alongside the MOD’s operational expertise, Dstl’s scientific and technical capabilities and GCHQ’s global intelligence, SIS provides its expertise in recruiting and running agents alongside its unique ability to deliver clandestine operational technology.
Used in combination with diplomatic, economic, political and military capabilities, examples of cyber operations could include:
- Interfering with a mobile phone to prevent a terrorist from being able to communicate with their contacts.
- Helping to prevent cyberspace from being used as a global platform for serious crimes, including fraud and sexual abuse of children.
- Keeping UK military aircraft safe from targeting by weapons systems.
The UK is committed to using its cyber capabilities in a responsible way, in line with UK and international law. Past and future cyber operations have and will continue to operate under existing laws, including the Intelligence Services Act (1994) and the Investigatory Powers Act (2016). This ensures UK cyber operations are responsible, targeted and proportionate, in contrast to the operations of some of our adversaries.
Shaping the open international order of the future
The UK’s openness to the flow of trade, capital, data, ideas and talent is essential to our long-term prosperity. This international exchange will be critical in driving healthy competition, innovation and productivity growth as we build back better from COVID-19 and seek to level up across the nation. The ability of open societies and economies such as the UK to flourish in this way depends on the effective functioning of the international order - the laws, rules and norms that are used to manage international cooperation and competition, and the institutions that enable countries to come together to tackle shared problems.
In the more interconnected, multipolar and contested environment we will face in the coming decade, the UK must be more active in shaping the open international order of the future: using our convening power and working with others to ensure it is fit for the 21st century and more resilient to short-term shocks and long-term challenges. We must also work to restore a spirit of greater international cooperation, based on dialogue and compromise, while standing up for our values.
There are multiple systems of institutions, laws, rules and norms that comprise the international order. We must tailor our approach to the opportunities and challenges we face in each of them: in the increasingly digital global economy and newer domains of cyberspace and space, which are addressed in this chapter; and in the security and ecological systems, which are addressed in chapters 3 and 4.
The UK remains deeply committed to multilateralism. We prize our membership of many global bodies, of which the UN is the most important. We must strengthen those institutions that are vital to the future functioning of the international order, such as the WTO and WHO, and deepen our engagement in those that are growing in importance, including those governing technology standards. Where we become more involved in other parts of the world, we will work with existing bodies, such as ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific. And we will be active in seeking election to senior positions within international institutions where our interests and values are most directly at stake. In doing so, we will field strong candidates that represent the true diversity of our communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Our first goal is to support open societies and defend human rights, as a force for good in the world. The international order is only as robust, resilient and legitimate as the states that comprise it. We will therefore support open societies - characterised by effective governance and resilience at home, and which cooperate with other countries on the basis of transparency, good governance and open markets.
Our second goal is to shape an open, resilient global economy, restoring trust in free and fair trade as we build back better from COVID-19. To do so, we must address the drivers of fragmentation and build the global economy of the future - one that is digital and sustainable. The UK economy must be more competitive within this landscape, as a global services, digital and data hub that delivers for all our citizens.
Our third goal is to shape the international order as it develops in future frontiers - in the domains of cyberspace and space, where the possibilities for economic, social and military activity are expanding rapidly, and existing rules and norms are struggling to keep pace. We will need to be active in ensuring effective accountability and oversight that protects democratic values, while opposing the overreach of state control.
Our force for good agenda: the combined power of diplomacy and development
Diplomatic leadership in a changing world
Effective diplomacy is a critical tool in the UK’s ability to deliver for British citizens in the world. It is through our efforts to build relationships and mutual understanding with allies, partners and countries beyond that we are best able to navigate the changing balance and diffusion of power.
To shape the open international order of the future, we must reinforce and renew our diplomacy, adapting our statecraft for a new era. In doing so, we must hold firm to our existing strengths. Our diplomatic network of 281 posts in 178 countries and territories will build the relationships and expertise to support our national goals, representing the whole of the United Kingdom and providing support to British people abroad through our consular services. Our diplomats and legal experts will maintain their significant contribution at the heart of multilateral institutions. And the UK will play an important convening role on issues of consequence to our shared security and prosperity.
We will also innovate, ensuring that our diplomacy is equipped for the challenges ahead. We have already made a significant change in combining our development expertise with the global reach of our diplomatic network - greatly enhancing our ability to achieve long-term change around the world through our force for good agenda. We will build on this through greater emphasis on:
- Regulatory diplomacy: bringing together governments, standards bodies and industry to influence rules, norms and standards - particularly in rapidly evolving areas such as space, cyberspace, emerging technologies and data. We will work with a wide range of partners - including technology companies, independent standards bodies, civil society and academia - across an increasing number of specialised international institutions.
- S&T diplomacy: strengthening our relationships worldwide and supporting the UK’s strategic advantage through S&T, building on our Science and Innovation Network in more than 40 countries and our Research and Innovation Hubs in Africa, the Middle East and India.
- Cyber diplomacy: as a critical element of our cyber power, with our network of officers stretching across six continents. In addition to our cyber security capacity-building programmes, we have initiated cross-government dialogues with 20 countries. Through these, we will continue to grow the international coalition working with us to strengthen the case for a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace, and to respond to and deter state-directed malicious cyber activity.
- National security diplomacy: reinforcing our deterrence by taking a more active approach to attribution of state threats and coordinating the use of sanctions to hold state and non-state actors to account for unacceptable behaviour - in addition to doing more to tackle state threats, terrorism and crime overseas, before they reach the UK. This will be supported by the work of the security and intelligence agencies.
- Dispute resolution: as part of a more effective and focused approach to addressing conflict and instability through prevention.
- Legal diplomacy: supporting open societies through capacity-building and justice reform, and promoting UK legal services, ensuring that the principles and values on which our domestic system is built remain the global standard.
- Data-driven development and diplomacy: using insight and analysis from around the world to target our diplomatic interventions overseas more effectively and to inform the full breadth of domestic policy.
UK ODA: increasing our impact as a force for good
The UK is one of the world’s leading development actors, committed to the global fight against poverty, to achieving the SDGs by 2030 and to maintaining the highest standards of evidence and transparency for all our investments.
As one of the world’s largest providers of ODA - well above Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) averages - we will focus our aid work on those areas which are important to a globally-focused UK and where we can have the greatest life-changing impact in the long term. We will maintain our commitment to Africa, with a particular focus on East Africa and on important partners such as Nigeria, while increasing development efforts in the Indo-Pacific.
We will set out our approach in a new international development strategy, which will ensure close alignment of UK aid from 2022 onwards with the objectives in this Strategic Framework. This strategy will build on our strategic priorities for ODA in 2021-22: climate and biodiversity; global health security; open societies and conflict resolution; girls’ education; humanitarian preparedness and response, especially food security and famine prevention; S&T; and trade and economic development. It will also consider the competitiveness of our trade and development offer to developing countries.
We will ensure that all UK ODA is aligned to the Paris Agreement, reflecting our commitment to tackling climate change and its effects as a driver of future instability and poverty. We will maintain a liberal approach to economic development, creating greater opportunities for all and modelled on open societies. We will more effectively combine our diplomacy and aid with trade, working with our partners to adapt our offer. As governments become able to finance their own development priorities, we will gradually move towards providing UK expertise in place of grants and using a variety of financing models to tackle regional challenges in our mutual interests.
The UK will continue to champion International Humanitarian Law and humanitarian access, and provide principled humanitarian assistance at moments of crisis. We will maintain our capacity to respond to unanticipated events, fund bilateral and multilateral programmes in humanitarian hotspots and lead a global campaign to protect 20 million people from catastrophic famine. To support this, we will seek to reform and strengthen the international humanitarian system, and promote the use of digital technology to provide faster and cheaper support to those affected by crises.
One HMG overseas
The creation of the FCDO is the foundation for a more integrated approach to our international action. We will build on this by ensuring that our ambassadors and high commissioners are fully accountable for cross-government objectives, not just the work of the FCDO. We will also ensure that the FCDO is better represented across the UK, including by increasing our staff in East Kilbride by 50%.
A force for good: supporting open societies and defending human rights
Open societies are crucial building blocks in a sustainable international order, modelling inclusive, accountable and transparent governance. However, they - and the individual liberties on which they are built - are coming under growing pressure in the physical world and online. There has been a general decline in global freedom since the mid-2000s, with autocracies becoming stronger and more prevalent worldwide.
Our efforts to reverse this decline in global freedom must start at home, with open societies working together to strengthen our domestic governance and resilience, agree common agendas for future action, and tackle with speed and agility those challenges that undermine our citizens’ security and prosperity. Doing so is crucial in tending to the long-term health of our democracy, as well as in sustaining our soft power - our ability to attract and influence others (see textbox later in this section). It is this imperative that is driving our G7 agenda, working with our fellow members, and through outreach to Australia, India and South Korea, to build back better from COVID-19.
The UK will also work with allies, like-minded partners and civil society worldwide to protect democratic values, as part of our force for good agenda. In many instances, this will involve working bilaterally with countries to strengthen their domestic governance and to build their resilience to threats and hazards. In doing so, we will focus our efforts primarily in the wider European neighbourhood, East Africa and the Indo-Pacific, tailoring our approach to meet local needs and combining our diplomacy, development, trade, security and other tools accordingly. Our priority actions will be:
- To defend universal human rights, including by working with local civil society and human rights defenders. Alongside our traditional bilateral and multilateral efforts, including at the UN and the Council of Europe, we will use our independent sanctions regime to hold to account those involved in serious human rights violations and abuses.
- To promote gender equality, working with women’s rights organisations to tackle the discrimination, violence and inequality that hold women back. We will use our aid spending and diplomacy to pursue the goal of getting 40 million more girls into school in low- and middle-income countries by 2025, starting with the Global Partnership for Education summit in 2021. We will also promote women’s economic empowerment at the WTO, G7, OECD, the UN and World Bank, and in free trade agreements (FTAs).
- To promote effective and transparent governance, robust democratic institutions and the rule of law. The UK will support strong, transparent and accountable political processes and institutions overseas, including parliaments and political parties, through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other institutions. This work will be bolstered by a new UK capability to support election observation and activity to strengthen existing multilateral efforts. We will also establish a new global sanctions regime on corruption (see textbox) and reinvigorate our efforts to tackle illicit finance.
The UK’s independent sanctions policy
In July 2020, the UK established our first autonomous sanctions regime: the global human rights (‘Magnitsky-style’) sanctions regime. It gives the UK a powerful new tool to hold to account those involved in serious human rights violations or abuses, by imposing targeted asset freezes and travel bans.
We will use our sanctions regimes as part of an integrated approach to promote our values and interests, and to combat state threats, terrorism, cyber-attacks, and the use and proliferation of chemical weapons. Our departure from the EU means we can move more quickly than through multilateral channels where it is in our interests to do so, while continuing to coordinate closely with a range of like-minded partners. We have already demonstrated the agility of our autonomous sanctions: in September 2020, we were the first European country to announce sanctions against the leader of Belarus and several officials over election fraud and violence against protestors.
In 2021, the UK will launch a second global sanctions regime on corruption, giving us powers to prevent those involved in corruption from freely entering the UK or channelling money through our financial system. This will complement existing anti-corruption tools, including law enforcement powers, and enable us to work with allies who have similar regimes, such as the US and Canada.
- To promote freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) overseas, taking forward the recommendations of the Bishop of Truro’s 2019 independent review and raising awareness of cases of particular concern - including through collaboration with the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance. In 2022, we will host an international ministerial conference to agree steps to advance FoRB for all.
- To defend press and media freedom including through our commitments to the Global Media Defence Fund, which we co-founded with Canada. Alongside our efforts to challenge censorship of the internet and digital media, we will promote appropriate protections against online harms. We will also tackle online violence, particularly where it is directed against women and girls, and help independent media in developing countries to establish new, resilient business models for the digital age. The independent work of the BBC World Service will also support media freedom.
- To end the practice of arbitrary arrest, detention or sentencing of foreign nationals to exercise leverage over other governments. We will support Canada’s initiative to end the arbitrary detention of foreign nationals - including those with dual nationality - without due process and the legal protections of a fair trial. This practice violates human rights obligations, is contrary to international law, undermines international relations and has a negative impact on foreign nationals travelling, working and living abroad.
A soft power superpower
The UK’s soft power is rooted in who we are as a country: our values and way of life, and the vibrancy and diversity of our Union. It is central to our international identity as an open, trustworthy and innovative country. It helps to build positive perceptions of the UK, create strong people-to-people links and familiarity with our values through cultural exchange and tourism. It also enhances our ability to attract international business, research collaboration and students - and, ultimately, to effect change in the world.
To date, the UK has consistently ranked within the top three countries in indices that measure soft power. In 2020, the UK topped a British Council/Ipsos MORI poll as the most attractive country for young people across the G20. This strong performance is underpinned by our model of democratic governance, legal systems and Common Law heritage, the Monarchy, our world-class education, science and research institutions and standards-setting bodies, creative and cultural industries, tourism sector, sports sector, large and diverse diaspora communities, and contribution to international development.
The source of much of the UK’s soft power lies beyond the ownership of government - an independence from state direction that is essential to its influence. The Government can use its own assets, such as the diplomatic network, aid spending and the armed forces, to help create goodwill towards the UK - for example, through support to disaster relief or through our international work to protect cultural heritage in conflict settings. Otherwise, the Government’s main role is to: create a conducive enabling environment in which independent organisations, assets and networks in every part of the UK can flourish; assist them in building mutually beneficial international relationships; and harness, where possible, their outputs for global goods - using scientific research and technology to provide solutions to global challenges, for example.
However, the soft power landscape is changing. Those who challenge the values of open and democratic societies increasingly do so through culture: systemic competitors like Russia and China invest heavily in global cultural power projection and information operations. Our allies are also taking a more strategic approach: cultural relations is one of the three pillars of German foreign policy and an important part of French foreign policy. Our perception of other countries - and therefore their soft power - is also increasingly shaped in the digital space, driven by individuals and non-state actors, including through disinformation.
Such dynamics illustrate that the strength of the UK’s soft power cannot be taken for granted. As a vital part of our foreign policy, it requires thoughtful investment that enables our domestic assets and international activity to thrive in the long term. We will therefore continue to support the UK’s creative and cultural sectors, including through: investing £150 million under our Creative Industries Sector Deal; increasing economy-wide investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027; and providing funding of £1.7 billion a year to 45 arm’s-length bodies that support UK cultural and sporting excellence.
Text box with icons highlighting four key areas of the UK’s soft power.
- Media and culture: The BBC is the most trusted broadcaster worldwide; the BBC World Service reaches 468m people every week, in 42 languages; The UK has vibrant creative and cultural industries. One in eight music albums sold around the world is by a UK artist. One quarter of global box office receipts are driven by UK-made films; Exhibitions from our museums and galleries reach over 500m people every year at home and abroad. Over 2021 and 2022, we will invest over £284m in government-sponsored galleries and museums. In 2022, Festival UK* will showcase the UK’s creativity and innovation to the world - bringing together science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in ten large-scale public engagement acts; There are 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the UK and our Overseas Territories, attracting visitors from around the world.
- Education: Nearly 500,000 overseas students chose to study in the UK in 2019, making the UK the 2nd most popular destination. Over 1 in 4 countries around the world has a Head of State or of Government who was educated in the UK; The British Council reaches 100m people in over 100 countries; 3 government scholarship schemes are available to the next generation of global leaders: the Commonwealth, Marshall, and Chevening scholarships.
- Sport: Since the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012, the UK has secured over 100 major international sporting events. In 2021 we will co-host the UEFA Men’s EURO competition and in 2022 we will host the Women’s EURO competition and the Commonwealth Games; The Premier League broadcasts to 188 countries worldwide and welcomes international talent from over 100 countries. The Wimbledon Championships reach audiences across the globe, with over half a million visitors each year.
- People-to-people links: Our people have links all over the world: 9.5m people living in the UK were born outside the UK, and over 5m UK citizens live overseas; Over 40m overseas visitors came to the UK in 2019, contributing £28.4bn to the UK economy and promoting familiarity with our values; Our #loveisgreat campaign celebrates equality and diversity, raising awareness of the UK as a welcoming destination for international LGBTQ+ visitors.
An open, resilient global economy
Sustaining an open global economy - and the benefits it offers - is critical to our ambition to establish the UK as a global services, digital and data hub, laying the foundations for the long-term prosperity of our citizens. This will capitalise on UK-wide strengths in services and digital, underpinned by our capabilities as a global S&T power. It will also play well to many global economic trends, such as the growth in the global middle class and the centrality of data to global GDP. However, the open global economy is facing significant challenges that are putting considerable strain on the international institutions and ‘rulebook’ that govern it - with COVID-19 a further complicating factor.
We have an opportunity now to build back better from COVID-19, by working with our allies and partners to pursue economic recovery and rebuild consensus in support of free trade and investment - underpinned by renewed trust in the international economic system to deliver effective governance and provide stability.
Our approach will build on our long-standing successes in delivering benefits for UK economic competitiveness and consumers: our integration into the global economic and financial system provides access to essential items such as medical supplies, offers UK firms access to innovations and fast-growing markets for British goods and services around the world, and enables us to attract inward investment to support jobs and growth at home. Nevertheless, our recovery from this economic crisis must deliver more equitably for people across the UK.
Text box with icons grouped in bullet points highlighting a key stats about the UK economy.
Text: Total trade accounted for 62% of UK GDP in 2019. 5th in the world for exports of goods and services. UK FDI to GDP ratio is 72%, ahead of France (32%) and Germany (27%). Economy-wide investment in R&D will increase to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. The UK is a global leader in financial services, which in 2018 contributed £132bn to the UK economy (6.9% of GDP). There are 1.1m jobs in the financial services sector across the UK (3.2% of all jobs) - 65% of which are located outside of London. The digital sector contributed nearly £150bn to the UK economy in 2018 - an increase of 30% since 2010. In 2019, UK digital tech investment reached a record high of £10.1bn, up £3.1bn from 2018 - accounting for 33% of all European tech investment. There are 1.6m jobs and around 232,000 businesses in the UK digital sector, most of which are small and medium-sized enterprises. There were 485,000 international students in the UK in 2018-19, accounting for 20.7% of the total student population.
We must also work with others to increase the resilience of the global economy to short-term shocks and long-term distortions, and to prepare for the structural challenges of the future. This will involve creating rules that are fit for the 21st century, rooted in high standards and democratic values, better enabling open societies such as the UK to harness the future frontiers of economic growth. It will also support the integration of developing countries into the global economy.
In addition to accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon global economy, our priority actions will be:
- To nurture a strong UK economy that delivers for all citizens and is more competitive internationally. We will use all our domestic levers and our international trade agenda (see textbox) to foster productivity growth and innovation, so that all our people benefit as we build back better from COVID-19. Through our plan for growth and the digital strategy, we will invest in national infrastructure, innovation and skills, signalling our regional and sectoral priorities to guide private-sector investment. We will also anticipate and respond to the needs of those disadvantaged by the changing shape of our economy - for example, through jobs lost to automation or the effects of a greener economy on fuel poverty.
- To promote inward investment while minimising the potential risk to our national security. We will maximise the contribution of foreign direct investment (FDI) to economic growth across the UK through an updated investment strategy, our trade policy and the work of the new Office for Investment. Where necessary and proportionate, we will intervene in FDI transactions to protect national security, under the provisions of the National Security and Investment Bill and led by the new Investment Security Unit. The UK is committed to a transparent and predictable regulatory environment in response to a more complex set of threats.
- To revitalise free, fair and transparent trade by strengthening the global trading system and modernising the international rulebook, especially on the environment, services and the digital sector. Countries around the world - large or small, developed or developing - need to be able to compete. The UK will therefore work with allies and partners to reinvigorate the WTO so that its rules and agreements are better able to address current and future trade issues. As part of this, we will seek to re-establish a fully functioning dispute settlement mechanism. We will also do more with like-minded partners to challenge those who consistently pursue unfair, trade-distorting practices - such as forced technology transfer and subsidies - including through state-owned enterprises, and those who abuse self-designation rights in claiming developing country status.
- To establish global leadership in digital trade and support dynamic and competitive digital markets that deliver for all in UK society. Our goal is to maximise economic growth while managing the potential disruption caused by rapid innovation in areas from digital currencies to e-commerce and new business models that monetise data. The UK will use our leadership in digital trade to advance WTO negotiations on e-commerce and incorporate modern digital and data trade provisions in our FTAs. A new Digital Markets Unit - hosted by the Competition and Markets Authority - and a new mandatory code of conduct for dominant digital firms will be at the centre of our pro-competition regime for digital markets. Through our G7 presidency, we will support the OECD’s work to ensure digital companies pay the right amount of tax in each country in which they operate. We will also drive efforts to ensure that digital technical standards developed by international standards bodies deliver for all.
- To promote green trade as part of the solution to climate change and biodiversity loss. The UK will remain at the centre of WTO discussions on trade and the environment, exploring opportunities to liberalise environmental goods and services, mitigate carbon emissions, set standards and make progress towards a circular economy.
- To tackle economic crime and illicit finance, which fund organised crime groups, terrorists and other malicious actors, undermine good governance and faith in our economy, and tarnish our global reputation by allowing corrupt assets to be held in the UK. Under the 2019 Economic Crime Plan, we will: increase the number of trained financial investigators within our police forces; overhaul our Suspicious Activity Reports regime to ensure critical intelligence informs their investigations; and bolster the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC). As soon as parliamentary time allows, we will introduce legislation that tackles economic crime, including the use of UK corporate structures in facilitating high-end money laundering. This legislation will incorporate reform of Companies House registration and limited partnerships, and introduce a register of overseas entities owning property in the UK. In addition to promoting action on corporate transparency and accelerating asset recovery through our G7 presidency, we will use our strong relationships with other major financial markets, such as the US, to maximise our collective impact.
- To diversify the UK’s supply in critical goods, such as medical equipment and rare earth elements, through trade partnerships and international collaboration. Starting with our G7 presidency, we will: use market-led strategies, such as targeted trade promotion and lowering barriers to trade; develop multilateral approaches to assess global supply chain vulnerabilities, for example through the OECD; promote global standards to support a greater circular economy in line with our clean growth ambitions; and establish agreements to keep trade in critical goods open in times of crisis. Within the UK, we will continue to explore opportunities around domestic extraction and processing of critical minerals, such as lithium, as well as their recovery, recycling and reuse to establish a viable circular economy. The Government is already supporting a number of pilot projects across Cornwall through its ‘Getting Building Fund’, Local Enterprise Partnership and Smart Grants.
We will use the full range of domestic and international tools available to the Government in pursuing these actions: putting our independent trade policy at the centre of our international and national security policy; and using regulatory diplomacy to shape the standards and values that will underpin the global economy in the future, so that we are better able to compete. International cooperation will be essential, working multilaterally with the WTO and OECD, and with the G7, G20 and other groupings, to establish common approaches and demonstrate the benefits of cooperation in influencing multilateral debates.
Putting trade at the heart of Global Britain
As an independent trading nation, our aim is to increase prosperity in all parts of the UK with a values-driven trade policy to open up markets and update international trading rules. Our policy is based on the core principles of democracy, human rights, free enterprise and high standards in areas like the environment, food, animal welfare and data.
Our new UK Global Tariff is a simpler, lower tariff regime than the EU’s Common External Tariff, which nevertheless retains tariffs on certain key sectors. This reflects our commitment to supporting global growth through trade and our determination to maintain an open and competitive UK market in the interests of UK consumers. We will use the full range of trade tools now available to the Government, in combination with our other instruments, in pursuit of our national goals. In particular, we will:
- Champion free and fair trade and reinvigorate the WTO, working with like-minded partners to modernise the trading rulebook, support sustainable trade and ensure all countries are fairly treated.
- Negotiate bilateral and regional free trade agreements, reducing trade barriers, opening up opportunities for UK exporters, maintaining high standards and reinvigorating relationships with trading partners, old and new. The Government’s manifesto commitment is to establish trade agreements with countries covering 80% of UK trade by the end of 2022. In addition to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement we have signed with the EU, our closest trading partner, we have secured FTAs with 66 non-EU countries and have applied for accession to the CPTPP, linking the UK to one of the most dynamic trading areas in the world.
- Secure market access and influence the rules, regulations and standards of our trading partners. We will do so through international organisations and using government-to-government dialogues such as Economic and Financial Dialogues, Joint Trade Reviews, Joint Economic and Trade Committees (JETCOs), mutual recognition agreements and bilateral investment treaties.
- Promote exports and support business across the UK. We will support businesses with a range of activity across the UK, including: export campaigns in sectors critical to export growth; a programme of export missions to tradeshows; expanding our network of Export Finance Managers across the UK; launching new UK Trade and Investment Hubs in Wales and Northern Ireland, in addition to that established in Scotland, to connect businesses to opportunities in international trade; support through our International Trade Advisors and the High Potential Opportunities Programme; and support to small and medium-sized enterprises in building their export capability through enhanced online services. We will also work with partners to address other activity that distorts the level playing field in global trade, making it more difficult for UK businesses to compete. This includes, for example, the use of tied concessional finance to win overseas contracts for domestic companies.
- Use our trade policy to create local jobs in all parts of the UK. Capturing the benefits of global trade opportunities will be vital in supporting job creation, wage growth and levelling up the economy across the UK. Creating opportunities for exports will be particularly important: an estimated 6.5 million jobs were supported by exports in 2016 - either directly or indirectly - of which nearly three-quarters were outside London.
- Equip the UK with the tools to tackle unfair and pernicious practices and maintain trust in free and fair trade. We will establish the Trade Remedies Authority as an independent body, enabling businesses across a range of UK manufacturing sectors - notably steel and ceramics - to seek redress against unfair trading practices, such as dumping and subsidisation, and the surge of imports. This will support stability and predictability for exporters and investors alike.
- Enable developing countries’ integration into the global economy, creating stronger trade and investment partners for the future - in particular, through economic partnership agreements and an improved unilateral trade preferences scheme that will contribute to poverty reduction and strengthen our supply chains.
Extending an open international order in future frontiers
As the world moves further into the digital and data-driven age, scientific discovery, emerging technologies and the ability to exploit huge quantities of data will open up new frontiers: rapidly expanding possibilities for economic, social and military activity in domains such as cyberspace and space. These future frontiers bring significant opportunity for future prosperity and well-being. But they will be subject to intense competition, raising important questions about the interaction between economic opportunity, security and ethics, and the balance between the role of the state, businesses and individuals.
To make the most of the opportunities ahead, we must ensure that these future frontiers evolve in a way that reflects democratic values and interests: with open and trusted markets, strong safeguards for human rights, norms of behaviour that reduce the risk of conflict and limit malign activity, and international cooperation to benefit our citizens and economies. The UK will work with our allies and partners - and wider stakeholders, including industry - to extend the open international order in future frontiers, ensuring effective accountability and oversight but opposing the overreach of state control.
Doing so will depend on our success in building a competitive edge in the technologies driving the development of the future frontiers - whether through our cyber and space capabilities, or growing our influence in areas such as AI. Building strategic advantage through S&T is therefore the foundation for our approach.
Our effort will involve three main strands of activity: engaging in industry-led technical standards development; developing regulatory frameworks governing infrastructure, technologies, data and commercial activity; and establishing the rules for responsible behaviour by states and non-state actors, which must be negotiated between states. Our priority actions to support this will be:
- To promote a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace. We will work with other governments and in partnership with industry to ensure that cyberspace is governed by rules and norms that enhance collective security, promote democratic values and support global economic growth, and counter the spread of digital authoritarianism. The UK will uphold the rule of law in cyberspace: embodying responsible state behaviour and shaping international best practice; and incentivising compliance, deterring attacks and holding others to account for irresponsible state behaviour. Where needed, we will shape new rules so that offensive cyber tools are developed and used responsibly and in accordance with international law.
- To protect an accessible and interoperable global internet for future generations, protecting the right for all to share information and communicate freely and safely over the internet. The UK will oppose efforts to bring management of the internet under restrictive inter-governmental control, redoubling our support for the multi-stakeholder model. We will also advocate for greater diversity in standards bodies.
- To ensure human rights are protected online as they are offline - promoting freedom of expression online, including through the Freedom Online Coalition, and protecting citizens from online harms, building on the UK’s pioneering approach to online safety (see textbox). As part of this, we will seek to ensure that lawful access to data is maintained as digital technologies and services develop, so that law enforcement and intelligence services have the capabilities to investigate the most serious crimes, while protecting individuals’ right to privacy.
The UK is establishing a new approach to governing digital technologies which drives inclusive and dynamic growth across our whole society. Priorities include promoting dynamic competitive digital markets, building trust through ensuring safety and security online, unlocking the value of data, and protecting and promoting freedom of expression online.
But the internet also enables and facilitates a range of harmful and criminal activity, many aspects of which we will address through a new online harms regulatory regime, introduced into law by the Online Safety Bill. The Government recognises the complexity, diversity and dynamism of the digital economy. We have designed the new regime to be proportionate and based on risk of harm, and flexible enough to account for emerging harms and technical solutions.
The regime will protect users from harm and safeguard freedom of expression and pluralism online, establishing a new system of accountability and oversight for tech companies that moves far beyond self-regulation. It will require all online service providers to have systems and processes which tackle illegal content and activity on their platforms, and protect children from harmful content and activity. Companies will be expected to take particularly robust measures to tackle child sexual exploitation and terrorism. The largest companies will be required to set out standards for what legal material is and is not acceptable on their services, and enforce their terms and conditions consistently and transparently.
The regulatory framework will be complemented by government support for media literacy and growth and innovation across the UK’s safety tech sector.
- To ensure that transparency and accountability are embedded from the outset in the design and deployment of new technologies. The UK will work with industry, the British Standards Institution and other countries to influence new technical standards and develop new public policy approaches to technology which encourage innovation and interoperability, while protecting rights and freedoms. Through our G7 presidency, we will host the Future Tech Forum - bringing together governments, industry, academia and civil society in dialogue on a core set of principles to guide the evolution of the international technology ecosystem.
- To champion the international flow of data, enabling secure, trusted and interoperable exchange across borders, while maintaining data protection standards. The UK’s national data strategy aims to harness data to drive economic growth, support scientific research, improve policy and public services and create a fairer society; while ensuring that all data is used responsibly, in ways that are secure, ethical and accountable. We will seek to extend this approach to global data governance, working with our international partners to overcome barriers to data flows and promote international data standards that enable growth and innovation.
- To ensure a secure and sustainable space environment. We will continue to lead international efforts to develop norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours in space, to reduce the risk of conflict, manage threats to the UK and our allies, and assure our freedom of action. The UK will also seek to shape the standards and regulations governing the civil use of space, to protect the space environment and to support the growth of a sovereign UK space industry. We will strengthen the resilience of the position, navigation and timing (PNT) services on which our CNI and economy depend; and use space assets to solve shared problems, supporting development efforts and disaster response.
An integrated space policy: making the UK a meaningful player in space
Since 2010, space has proved to be one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors, trebling in size. It now employs 42,000 people and generates an income of £14.8 billion each year, with particular strengths in small satellite technology, satellite and deep-space telecommunications, robotics and Earth observation.
The UK nevertheless relies heavily on our allies for access to critical capabilities, such as satellite launch. By 2030, the Government’s ambition is for the UK to have the ability to monitor, protect and defend our interests in and through space, using a mixture of sovereign capabilities and burden-sharing partnerships with our allies.
To meet this ambition, the National Space Council will develop the UK’s first national space strategy in 2021. This strategy will establish an integrated approach across military and civil space policy, under which we will:
- Establish a new Space Command by summer 2021, ensuring that the armed forces have cutting-edge capabilities to advance UK interests on Earth and in space - enhancing our cooperation with allies and ensuring we can compete with our adversaries.
- Develop a commercial launch capability from the UK - launching British satellites from Scotland by 2022 as part of the UK Space Agency’s programme to enable a UK-wide market for spaceflight services. This will give us greater strategic autonomy and flexibility in terms of what the UK puts into space, and when.
- Develop other critical space capabilities for military and civil use, including Space Domain Awareness, which uses integrated in-space and ground sensing to track space debris, investigate incidents in space, and detect, anticipate and attribute hostile activity.
- Support the UK space sector to realise the economic benefits from this new and dynamic market, and extend the UK’s influence in the space domain. As part of building the UK’s strategic advantage through S&T, the Government will build the enabling environment for a thriving UK space industry developing space- and ground-based technologies. We will promote a ‘whole-of-life’ offer from R&D through finance to satellite operations, launch capability data applications and end-of-life services. Defence will carry out more space-related science activity, R&D and operational concept demonstrators.
- Prevent the proliferation of technologies that pose a threat in space, such as ballistic missile technologies, through robust export controls.
- Increase the UK’s international collaboration across our space-related objectives. We intend to continue our participation in the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation programme, and will deepen our cooperation with NATO and through the Combined Space Operations (CSpO) initiative. We will also develop our work with bodies including NASA and the European, Canadian, Australian and Japanese space agencies.
The UK in the world: a European country with global interests
Among European countries, the UK has uniquely global interests, partnerships and capabilities. As one of five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council, and with a leading voice in organisations like the G7, G20 and Commonwealth, we have a global perspective and global responsibilities. Our patterns of trade and investment are as global as they are European, and our international policy reflects this reality. Our aim is to be well-placed to take advantage of emerging markets, shifts in the global economy and global progress in S&T, and to shoulder our share of the burdens in providing for stability and security at the global level as well as in the Euro-Atlantic area. This will guide the way we prioritise our diplomatic efforts, including in our tilt to the Indo-Pacific.
The United States will remain the UK’s most important strategic ally and partner. The heart of the relationship is a human one: the flow of people and ideas between our countries, our shared history, and a common language. Almost a million British and American nationals live and go to work in each others’ countries each day. Our relationship is also one of common values - a shared belief in democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. As a result of these foundations, we cooperate to an unprecedented degree. Across the full spectrum of defence, intelligence, cyber power, counter-terrorism and nuclear, the US-UK partnership underpins our security and saves lives. We will continue to deepen our relationship, including through the Carrier Strike Group, joint work on emerging technologies, and collaboration on our future nuclear deterrent. The US is the UK’s biggest single bilateral trading partner, accounting for over £230 billion in trade, almost 20% of UK exports and the largest single source of FDI in 2019. We will seek to grow this further through an FTA, which will help both our economic recoveries from COVID-19 and aid our shared ambition to level up, setting a new bar for trade deals of the future in digital trade, in the protection of intellectual property and in accelerating efforts on the low-carbon economy. We will also seek closer collaboration in tackling illicit finance.
Our European neighbours and allies remain vital partners. The UK will be the greatest single European contributor to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area to 2030. We will work with our partners to defend our common values, counter shared threats and build resilience in our neighbourhood. We will also sustain our people and cultural ties, and look for opportunities to collaborate, including in developing green technology and through a green recovery from COVID-19.
We recognise the important role played by the EU in the peace and prosperity of Europe and will find new ways of working with it on shared challenges. Our Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides a basis for protecting our essential economic interests and cooperating as appropriate, while enabling us to pursue different economic and political approaches in many areas where this suits our interests.
We have a deep and long-standing security and defence partnership with France, underpinned by the Lancaster House treaties and exemplified by our Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) and E3 partnership. We will continue working together to counter terrorism and state threats, and to sustain international security. Managing our economic relationship in a collaborative and constructive way, particularly in handling our shared border in relation to both trade and security, will be important to ensuring the overall relationship remains positive. Our intention is to enhance this partnership and to build on the Lancaster House treaties in the UK-France Summit in 2021.
Germany is an essential ally, with which we have deep economic ties and a growing foreign policy partnership, as members of the E3 and bilaterally. We will continue to work together to defend our neighbourhood and our values, including through the Joint Declaration on Foreign Policy we hope to sign in 2021. We will seek to bolster this relationship in the years ahead, including through cooperation on important issues such as climate change.
We are committed to a strong bilateral relationship with Ireland, with which we enjoy a Common Travel Area. We have a shared responsibility and an essential common interest in upholding the 1998 Belfast Agreement in all its elements. These include its three strands - the internal governance of Northern Ireland, North-South cooperation and East-West relations. We will seek to work constructively with Ireland to ensure that the 2019 EU Withdrawal Agreement is implemented in a way that protects this agreement and the hard-won gains of the peace process, including prosperity and stability in Northern Ireland. In addition, we will further develop our relationship through increasing connectivity, clean growth and international cooperation.
Other European partners, both within and outside the EU, will remain essential to our approach. We enjoy a particularly close partnership with Italy at the present time given our respective G7 and G20 presidencies and COP26 in 2021. Poland is a vital partner on European security with which we share a deep history. Similarly, we work with other European partners including Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey on a focused set of interests where we can find common cause, such as values, free trade and a commitment to transatlanticism. Bilaterally, and through NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force, we work with all our allies in support of our common objectives, to meet shared defence and security challenges. We will continue to develop our Future Combat Air System (FCAS) with Italy and Sweden.
The UK respects the people, culture and history of Russia. However, until relations with its government improve, we will actively deter and defend against the full spectrum of threats emanating from Russia. Through NATO, we will ensure a united Western response, combining our military, diplomatic and intelligence assets in support of collective security. We will uphold international rules and norms and hold Russia to account for breaches of these, working with our international partners, as we did after the Salisbury attack. We will also support others in the Eastern European neighbourhood and beyond to build their resilience to state threats. This includes Ukraine, where we will continue to build the capacity of its armed forces.
The UK will continue to invest deeply in our partnerships with Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which are based on shared history, values and people-to-people connections, including as members of the Commonwealth. We continue to work bilaterally with all three across foreign policy and security issues, intelligence, law enforcement and defence. We also work together, with the US, through our unique and highly valued Five Eyes partnership. We have increased our Five Eyes cooperation, including in response to the pandemic, and will seek to strengthen policy cooperation further on a range of issues. Under our independent trade policy, we will seek bespoke FTAs with each partner.
The UK is one of the 54 members of the Commonwealth, a voluntary international association that values democratic sovereignty and encompasses 2.4 billion people - 60% of whom are under the age of thirty. The Commonwealth is an important institution in supporting an open and resilient international order, bringing together states with a national interest in promoting democracy, sustaining individual freedoms, driving sustainable development and enabling cross-border trade in goods and services that supports economic growth.
In the decade ahead, the UK will deepen our engagement in the Indo-Pacific (see following section), establishing a greater and more persistent presence than any other European country. The region is already critical to our economy and security; is a focal point for the negotiation of international laws, rules and norms; and will become more important to UK prosperity over the next decade. Japan is one of our closest strategic partners, including on security, and we are committed to deepening this partnership. We will look to cement our ties with South Korea and other regional powers such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. We will remain the most engaged non-regional partner on denuclearisation by North Korea and on sanctions enforcement. We have close historical links with Pakistan and will continue to develop a strong, modern relationship focused on security, stability and prosperity. We will continue to support stability in Afghanistan, as part of a wider coalition.
The UK-India relationship is already strong, but over the next ten years we seek transformation in our cooperation across the full range of our shared interests. India – as the largest democracy in the world – is an international actor of growing importance. As Commonwealth nations, we have strong cultural links: 1.5 million British nationals are of Indian origin; and we enjoy broad collaboration across the education sector. Trade between the UK and India more than doubled between 2007 and 2019, our investment relationship supports over half a million jobs in each other’s economies, and the UK is India’s second-biggest research partner. The ability to strike our own trade deals will allow us to grow our economic relationship further, including through increased bilateral investment flows.
Our vision is for re-energised trade and investment, rooted in S&T and supporting levelling up in the UK and India alike; enhanced defence cooperation that brings a more secure Indian Ocean Region, building on the existing biannual Ministerial Defence Dialogues; and UK-India leadership to tackle global challenges like climate change, clean energy and global health. We will take a major step towards achieving this vision in 2021 when we launch our Enhanced Trade Partnership with India as a roadmap to a potential comprehensive trade deal. This relationship will be underpinned by our largest single-country diplomatic network anywhere in the world, with more than 800 staff spread across eleven posts.
China’s growing international stature is by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today, with major implications for British values and interests and for the structure and shape of the international order. The fact that China is an authoritarian state, with different values to ours, presents challenges for the UK and our allies. China will contribute more to global growth than any other country in the next decade with benefits to the global economy. China and the UK both benefit from bilateral trade and investment, but China also presents the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security.
We will require a robust diplomatic framework for this relationship that allows us to manage disagreements, defend our values and preserve space for cooperation where our interests align. China is an increasingly important partner in tackling global challenges like pandemic preparedness, biodiversity and climate change. We will continue to pursue a positive economic relationship, including deeper trade links and more Chinese investment in the UK. At the same time, we will increase protection of our CNI, institutions and sensitive technology, and strengthen the resilience of our critical supply chains, so that we can engage with confidence. We will not hesitate to stand up for our values and our interests where they are threatened, or when China acts in breach of existing agreements. The UK has responded to China’s actions in Hong Kong by creating a new immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their eligible family members and dependents, and to China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang through measures to ensure that British organisations are neither complicit in nor profiting from them.
Africa is the most diverse continent in the world with significant countervailing trends. We will partner with the African Union on climate and biodiversity, global health security, free trade, crisis management, conflict prevention and mediation, the Women, Peace and Security agenda, and promoting good governance and human rights. Building on the success of the 2020 Africa Investment Summit, we will revitalise UK economic engagement with Africa, deepening and developing mutual partnerships, working together to build resilient and productive economies and open societies, with improved development, investment and financing offers, more effective humanitarian response, increased climate resilience and reduced security threats.
We will work in partnership with South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana in particular to further our shared prosperity goals, our democratic values and our security interests. South Africa and Nigeria are regional powers with global reach through international fora, with which we share common values and commercial and development interests: together they account for 46% of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa and for 60% of its trade with the UK. The UK shares significant security and counter-terrorism concerns in the Horn of Africa with Ethiopia and Kenya. We will invest further in regional stability, moving towards closer defence cooperation with Kenya, and Ethiopia if the situation there allows. We will deliver the UK-Kenya Strategic Partnership, building on our deep and historic relationship.
The UK will continue to support conflict resolution and stabilisation efforts in Somalia and Sudan and work to ensure the freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden and maritime security in the Indian Ocean. We will continue to support UN and African peacekeeping operations - including through increased commitment to the successor mission to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) - to address shared security concerns and protect the most vulnerable. We have deployed UK troops to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and provide training for African troop contributors to UN missions.
The UK has strong, historic bilateral ties in the Middle East and North Africa region - such as with Jordan and Oman - which are vital to UK prosperity and security. We will look to deepen these links to become one of the region’s primary trade and investment partners and build support for our climate objectives. We will bring a more integrated security offer to protect our interests, tackling the upstream drivers of terrorism, and working with our partners to enhance and modernise their security capacity and capabilities to ensure lasting stability in the region. Our armed forces will continue to contribute to the Global Coalition against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. We will also build upon our close security partnerships, including with Israel and Saudi Arabia, to better protect our interests in the region.
We will enhance our work promoting greater economic, societal and environmental resilience, including in key countries such as Egypt. We will work with partners to build more open, inclusive and resilient societies, in particular championing and supporting women’s participation and girls’ education. We will seek to increase trade and investment with our Gulf partners, to support the levelling up agenda in the UK. We will enhance collaboration in areas such as life sciences and green technology with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel and support work on sustainable growth and climate change with Iraq and Morocco. We will also increase our cooperation with our close partner the UAE to tackle global illicit financial flows.
As a priority, we will continue to work with partners on a renewed diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and to hold it to account for its destabilising activity in the region, including seeking regional rapprochement. The UK will continue working towards durable political solutions in Yemen and Libya. We will likewise address the humanitarian, economic and regional consequences of the Syria conflict and work for a durable political solution, including through our support to Jordan and Lebanon.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the UK will continue to develop a strong set of partnerships based on shared democratic values, inclusive and resilient growth, free trade and mutual interest in tackling SOC and corruption. With at least 23% of the world’s tropical forests, 30% of global reserves of freshwater and 25% of the world’s cultivable land, this region is also a vital partner in tackling climate change and restoring biodiversity.
We will deepen our ties with Brazil and Mexico, strengthening partnerships on trade, innovation, climate, security and development as well as working with Argentina, Chile and Colombia to support our interests. We will continue to defend the UK’s sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and ensure the interests of the 3,500 people who live there are protected in line with the principle of self-determination.
By 2021, the Antarctic Treaty will have been in force for 60 years. The UK was the first signatory of the treaty, which protects Antarctica as a continent for peaceful scientific cooperation. Using our new state-of-the-art Polar Research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, and through further investment in our Antarctic scientific stations and capabilities, the UK will continue to uphold and strengthen the Antarctic Treaty System and maintain our leadership in the study of the global implications of climate change in Antarctica.
The UK is the nearest neighbour to the Arctic region. Through our role as a State Observer to the Arctic Council, we will contribute to maintaining the region as one of high cooperation and low tension. We will also maintain a significant contribution to Arctic science, focused on understanding the implications of climate change. We are committed to working with our partners to ensure that increasing access to the region and its resources is managed safely, sustainably and responsibly.
The Indo-Pacific tilt: a framework
The Indo-Pacific region matters to the UK: it is critical to our economy, our security and our global ambition to support open societies. At least 1.7 million British citizens live across the region and our trading relationships continue to grow. In the decades to come it will be the crucible for many of the most pressing global challenges – from climate and biodiversity to maritime security and geopolitical competition linked to rules and norms.
The UK needs to engage more deeply:
- For economic opportunities – the Indo-Pacific is the world’s growth engine: home to half the world’s people; 40% of global GDP; some of the fastest-growing economies; at the forefront of new global trade arrangements; leading and adopting digital and technological innovation and standards; investing strongly in renewables and green tech; and vital to our goals for investment and resilient supply chains. The Indo-Pacific already accounts for 17.5% of UK global trade and 10% of inward FDI and we will work to build this further, including through new trade agreements, dialogues and deeper partnerships in science, technology and data.
- For our security – the region is at the centre of intensifying geopolitical competition with multiple potential flashpoints: from unresolved territorial disputes; to nuclear proliferation and miscalculation; to climate change and non-state threats from terrorism and SOC. It is on the frontline of new security challenges, including in cyberspace. Much of the UK’s trade with Asia depends on shipping that goes through a range of Indo-Pacific choke points. Preserving freedom of navigation is therefore essential to the UK’s national interests. We already work closely with regional partners and will do more through persistent engagement by our armed forces and our wider security capacity-building.
- For our values – we need to deepen and expand our partnerships to promote open societies and to uphold the international rules and norms that underpin free trade, security and stability. We remain committed to development in a region that is home to one-third of the world’s poorest people. We will work closely with like-minded bilateral and multilateral partners, including on global priorities such as girls’ education and tackling climate change.
Our goal: we will be the European partner with the broadest and most integrated presence in the Indo-Pacific - committed for the long term, with closer and deeper partnerships, bilaterally and multilaterally.
Our role: we will lead where we are best placed to do so and we will partner and support others as necessary to pursue our goals. This will include both sustaining and supporting bilateral and multilateral partnerships in the region, such as the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), and working with organisations such as ASEAN and the Pacific Island Forum. We will also look for ways to work more closely with European partners, including France and Germany. We will be an open and liberal trade partner, do business with reliability and integrity, and build on our deep expertise and engagement in international peace and security issues.
Our actions: this ambition will be delivered through prioritised cross-government engagement, focused on nine areas:
- Concluding and implementing new bilateral trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, and agreeing an Enhanced Trade Partnership with India as a stepping stone towards a comprehensive trade deal, in addition to new trade dialogues and reviews with partners across the region.
- Acceding to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to secure increased trade and investment opportunities, and to diversify our trading links and supply chains, embedding open trade and integration.
- Strengthening supply chain resilience of critical goods and raw materials, including medical supplies.
- Becoming an ASEAN Dialogue Partner to work together on global challenges, support ASEAN’s central role in regional stability and prosperity and enable sustainable development in South East Asia.
- Strengthening defence and security cooperation, including in maritime security, building on our overseas military bases and existing contribution in the Indo-Pacific, enhancing our engagement and exercising with our FPDA partners, and increasing our engagement with regional security groupings.
- Cooperating and building capacity on cyber security.
- Tackling climate change, using both adaptation and mitigation activity to support a transition to clean, resilient and sustainable growth in the Indo-Pacific through influence with major and growing emitters and the most vulnerable countries, linked directly to our wider COP26 strategy.
- Our force for good agenda, promoting open societies and protecting public goods through conflict prevention, strong rule of law, respect for human rights and media freedoms, girls’ education and humanitarian response. We will also continue to deepen our people-to-people links, including through bilateral cultural seasons with Japan, Australia and India.
- Using our ODA more strategically, in support of many of these objectives. We will continue to support partner countries in the region to combat extreme poverty. Where countries can finance their development, we will move gradually from offering grants to providing UK expertise and returnable capital to address regional challenges in our mutual interest. This will include support to high-quality infrastructure.
Deepening cooperation in S&T with partners across the region will be central to our overall partnership with the Indo-Pacific, underpinning our future success across all these areas.
Our presence: the UK has already invested significantly in this region with a network of 52 posts, four of which have been opened since 2018. A new FCDO Director General responsible for the Indo-Pacific was appointed in 2020, as was a dedicated Ambassador to ASEAN in 2019. Since 2018, we have had regional Trade Commissioners based in Singapore, Mumbai and Shanghai. During 2020, we agreed new trade deals with Japan, Singapore and Vietnam. We have a long-standing naval presence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean through Operation Kipion. Naval visits and defence diplomacy across the wider Indo-Pacific grew in 2019.
Strengthening security and defence at home and overseas
The UK can only maximise the benefits of our openness if we are strong and secure at home – ensuring that our citizens are safe from harm, while protecting our democracy, the economy and the critical national infrastructure on which daily life depends. Security is also essential to an international order in which open societies and economies like the UK can flourish and collaborate in pursuit of shared goals, free from coercion and interference.
We will take a more robust approach in response to the deteriorating global security environment, adapting to systemic competition and a wider range of state and non-state threats enabled by technology. In doing so, we must improve our ability to detect, disrupt, defend against and deter the threats we face in the physical world and in cyberspace. These may be state threats above and below the traditional threshold of war, transnational security challenges such as terrorism and serious and organised crime (SOC), or a combination of these. We will demonstrate that we are able and willing to respond when our citizens and interests are targeted, including with force if necessary.
Equally, we must recognise that we cannot disrupt or deter every threat in our more interconnected world, in which the distinction between domestic and international security is increasingly blurred. We must therefore make it more difficult and costly for malign actors – both state and non-state – to achieve the effects they desire. This will involve reducing our vulnerabilities and improving our resilience to persistent threats. We must also minimise the opportunity for others to exploit conflict and instability for their own gain, and reinforce the governance and international architecture that help to preserve peace.
Cooperation with allies and like-minded partners will be fundamental to this effort. As a P5 member, we have a responsibility to contribute to international security. As a European power with global reach, we are well-placed to do so, through a broad, integrated security approach that addresses the spectrum of challenges to our shared security and prosperity. We will tailor our presence and support according to the country and region, continuing to focus our security efforts primarily on the Euro-Atlantic region and providing support in Africa - in particular in East Africa and to important partners in West Africa such as Nigeria - and in the Middle East. We will also place a greater emphasis than before on the Indo-Pacific, reflecting its importance to many of the most pressing global challenges in the coming decade, such as maritime security and competition linked to laws, rules and norms.
Our first goal is to counter state threats at home and overseas. We must improve our ability – and that of our allies and partners – to detect, understand, attribute and act in response to the spectrum of state threats we face: sharing risk and pooling capabilities through collective security; using our armed forces to disrupt and deter through persistent engagement overseas; and building our collective capacity to counter state threats in the physical world and in cyberspace.
Our second goal is to tackle conflict and instability. We will seek to address their long-term drivers, reduce the incidence and intensity of conflict, and minimise the opportunities for states and non-state actors to renegotiate power balances and to undermine international security.
Our third goal is to enhance UK homeland security by tackling transnational security challenges, addressing a range of increasingly overlapping threats to our security at home and overseas. These include radicalisation and terrorism, SOC, and the proliferation of CBRN capabilities and advanced military technology.
Countering state threats: defence, disruption and deterrence
State threats to the UK, and to our allies, are growing and diversifying as systemic competition intensifies. States are becoming increasingly assertive in how they advance their own objectives and in their willingness to undermine ours. While their actions often fall short of open conflict, they can nevertheless threaten and interfere with our security, open economy, democracy and social cohesion – risking escalation into war. State threats are persistent and take many forms, including espionage, political interference, sabotage, assassination and poisonings, electoral interference, disinformation, propaganda, cyber operations and intellectual property theft. These tools of coercion and interference can also be used in ‘hybrid’ combination with more traditional hard power methods.
Great power competition and the opportunism of states such as Russia, Iran and North Korea are key factors in the deterioration of the security environment and the weakening of the international order. But the dynamics of systemic competition are more complex and the UK faces threats from a wider range of states. Non-state actors also participate in this competition. They often use the same methods, such as cyber-attacks and disinformation, to target our citizens and exploit our openness for their own gain. And states increasingly work with non-state actors to achieve their goals, including as proxies in conflict. This affords them deniability and blurs the line between state threats and other types of security threats, such as terrorism and SOC.
The UK must improve its ability to detect, understand, attribute and act in response to aggression across the range of state threats, whether in the physical domain or in cyberspace, and whether military or non-military in nature. We must work with our allies and like-minded partners to do the same, so that together we are more resilient and our collective response is greater than the sum of its parts. This will enable us to manage escalation, by responding in the domain and at a time of our choosing. It will also strengthen open societies and economies, international security and the international order.
This means that responding to state threats can no longer be viewed as a narrow ‘national security’ or ‘defence’ agenda. We must bring together the elements of our work across this Strategic Framework at home and overseas, and all the instruments available to government, in an integrated response.
Defending the UK and our people, at home and overseas
The first responsibility of the Government is to defend the UK and its citizens. This includes our responsibility to ensure the security of the fourteen Overseas Territories (OTs) and the Crown Dependencies of the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man. We also have responsibilities to the five million British people that live outside the UK, and to British nationals on visits overseas. In fulfilling these responsibilities, our priority actions will be:
- To secure British territory against physical incursions. The Royal Navy will remain active in the UK’s territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone, including by investing in new capabilities to protect undersea CNI. The Royal Air Force (RAF) will continue to provide a 24-hour quick reaction alert force to defend UK airspace and our new Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will patrol the North Atlantic from their base at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.
- To support the OTs and Crown Dependencies in deterring and defending against state and non-state threats. The armed forces will continue to deter and challenge incursions in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. Significant investment in the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus will assure our ability to contribute to security, with allies, in the Eastern Mediterranean. The armed forces will also maintain a permanent presence in the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and the British Indian Ocean Territory; and a permanent maritime presence in the Atlantic and Caribbean, contributing to counter-trafficking operations and delivering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during the annual hurricane season. We will promote the right of self-determination for the peoples of the OTs and continue to defend and represent internationally the three Crown Dependencies. We will uphold the UK’s Antarctic Treaty obligations, including around the British Antarctic Territory.
- To enhance the support and assistance available to UK nationals overseas, offering a wider choice of digital services for consular assistance. The armed forces will maintain readiness to evacuate British nationals caught up in events overseas when needed.
Defence and deterrence through collective security
The UK’s network of military alliances and partnerships is at the heart of our ability to deter and defend against state adversaries. It is also a powerful demonstration of the collective commitment to the free association of sovereign nations and the willingness to share the burden in maintaining an open international order.
NATO is the foundation of collective security in the Euro-Atlantic area, where our commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty remains our most powerful deterrent. In an era of rapid developments in technology and doctrine, the Alliance must be equipped to deal with the full range of possible threats. These include long-range precision strike weapons, cyber weapons and weapons aimed at degrading space-based infrastructure. They also include malign activity intended to test the boundary between peace and war, and our resolve in response. Russia is the most acute threat in the region and we will work with NATO Allies to ensure a united Western response, combining military, intelligence and diplomatic efforts. We will continue to support closer practical cooperation between NATO and the EU in pursuit of this goal. We will cooperate with the EU on matters of security and defence as independent partners, where this is in our interest.
To bolster collective security with our allies - especially in the Euro-Atlantic and with a new emphasis on the Indo-Pacific - our priority actions will be:
- To reaffirm our commitment to leadership in NATO, supporting its adaptation to threats above and below the threshold of war under international law. We will increase our defence budget by over £24 billion over the next four years and remain the largest European spender on defence in NATO, with our expenditure now standing at 2.2% of GDP. We will continue to: commit a full spectrum of forces to the Alliance, from our nuclear deterrent to offensive cyber capabilities; make a leading contribution to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence and Response Force; and ensure we are at the forefront of implementing NATO’s new Deterrence and Defence Concept. We will also continue to serve as a framework nation able to connect and coordinate NATO’s forces effectively, while more UK equipment will be prepositioned in Germany to facilitate rapid response. Operating across the Euro-Atlantic region, and with a focus on the northern and southern flanks of Europe, we will support collective security from the Black Sea to the High North, in the Baltics, the Balkans and the Mediterranean.
- To improve interoperability with our Euro-Atlantic allies. We will strengthen bilateral relationships – particularly, but not solely, with our key allies the United States, France (via the Lancaster House treaties and the CJEF) and Germany – as well as multilateral groupings such as the Joint Expeditionary Force, which comprises the UK, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
- To modernise the UK armed forces, maintaining a full spectrum of capabilities, as set out in the Defence Command Paper. We will prioritise the development and integration of new technologies – including those required for near-peer, high-tech warfighting – and a ‘digital backbone’ to enable multi-domain operations and interoperability with allies and partners. In the Euro-Atlantic, the UK will be one of only two NATO Allies to bring to bear nuclear, offensive cyber, precision strike weapons and fifth-generation strike aircraft. We will also contribute to missile defence, to space awareness and resilience (including through a new Space Command) and to CBRN resilience. A new generation of warships will support our historic role in keeping the North Atlantic open. Our highly mobile airborne and amphibious forces will be able to reinforce Allies at short notice. Our land force will undergo its most comprehensive modernisation for two decades, becoming better integrated with other domains, better able to intervene quickly and effectively over large distances, better protected from electronic, air and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle threats, and better able to engage an adversary at long range. Our Special Forces will be ready to operate in the most hostile environments and against our most sophisticated adversaries. With international partners including Italy and Sweden, we will continue to develop FCAS as a replacement for our Typhoon fast jets, drawing on ground-breaking technologies from the defence sector and beyond.
- To improve our ability to manage and de-escalate a multi-domain crisis, reflecting the increased intensity of competition from our potential adversaries and the more complex range of routes for escalation, including to nuclear coercion. The UK will run a series of national, strategic-level exercises to test resilience and our ability to navigate crises. We will actively support similar NATO and EU-NATO exercises.
- To sustain our commitment to collective security beyond the Euro-Atlantic, strengthening our ties and understanding. In particular, given the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific, we will reinforce our commitment to the FPDA and increase our regional maritime presence to support norms and laws in the region. In 2021, HMS Queen Elizabeth will lead a multinational task group on a global deployment, visiting the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific.
Modernising defence for a competitive age
We must update our deterrence posture to respond to the growth in state competition below the threshold of war under international law. As set out in the 2020 Integrated Operating Concept, this means being able to move seamlessly between ‘operating’ and ‘warfighting’. This will require a force structure that principally deters through ‘persistent engagement’ below the threshold of war, while remaining prepared for warfighting when necessary. All activity, including that which has previously been seen as routine, has the potential to constrain or deter adversaries.
In practice, persistent engagement will mean deploying more of our forces overseas more often and for longer periods of time, both with NATO and alongside our wider network of allies and partners. Greater global presence will improve our understanding of events, help us to detect and tackle problems earlier, and give us a foundation to respond more assertively to threats. Our armed forces will remain ready to fight major wars but will operate as a flexible campaigning force.
To provide a more solid overseas foundation we will invest in the strategic hubs that give our forces reach, access, influence and insight. As well as investing in our facilities and infrastructure in Cyprus, Gibraltar and Germany, we will improve those in Oman, Singapore and Kenya. We will also invest around £60 million in expanding and improving our global network of British Defence Staffs, increasing it by nearly a third.
We will place greater priority on identifying, funding, developing and deploying new technologies and capabilities faster than our potential adversaries, under the MOD science and technology strategy 2020. This will allow our forces to be decisive at greater reach, to integrate better with allies and to be more efficient and cost-effective, reversing the trend of fewer and increasingly costly platforms. It will also stimulate the national S&T base across both industry and academia. We will invest at least £6.6 billion over the next four years in R&D in areas including space, cyber, quantum technologies, engineering biology, directed energy weapons and advanced high-speed missiles. Investment in Defence and Security Accelerator challenges as well as a network of MOD innovation hubs within important UK technology clusters will improve the ‘pull through’ of this R&D into cutting-edge equipment. We will also publish a Defence AI strategy and invest in a new centre to accelerate the adoption of this technology across the full spectrum of our capabilities and activities.
Finally, we will implement a new defence and security industrial strategy aligned with the Government’s plan for growth. It will constitute a more strategic approach to our core industrial base, from building ships in Scotland and armoured vehicles in Wales, to manufacturing aircraft in England and satellites in Northern Ireland. Through our investment in priority equipment and technologies to meet national security requirements, we will convert innovation into commercial opportunities more effectively and support prosperity and growth in the wider economy. We will move away from the 2012 policy of ‘competition by default’ and prioritise UK industrial capability where required for national security and operational reasons. We will also reform and revitalise our approach to acquisition, exports and international collaboration, including greater use of government-to-government arrangements.
Countering state threats to our democracy, society and economy
Our wider efforts to counter state threats will reinforce our collective security. We will seek to deter states from aggressive acts: through the prospect of punishment – by detecting, attributing and responding accordingly; and by denying them the opportunity to act, through reducing our vulnerabilities and improving our resilience. In the UK, this will involve bringing together the work of the Defending Democracy programme – a cross-government programme to protect our institutions and elected officials from intimidation, interference and espionage – with our efforts to protect our economic security, strengthen UK cyber security, enhance our national security communications and build our national resilience.
The experience of the 2018 Salisbury attack demonstrated the value of a collective response to aggression. Equally, some threats such as cyber-attacks and disinformation easily cross borders and require international action. We must therefore also work with allies and like-minded partners to strengthen their approach to state threats. This will involve deepening our security relationships in the wider Euro-Atlantic area, Africa and the Middle East, and with a greater emphasis on the Indo-Pacific. Through our support to others in capacity-building, we will: develop a shared understanding of the security threats we face, including through increased information-sharing; undertake joint education, training and exercises; and provide assistance and expertise in developing policy, legislation and regulatory frameworks.
Our priority actions will be:
- To take a whole-of-government approach to protecting democracy in the UK, supporting a democratic system that is fair, secure and transparent. Our goal under the Defending Democracy programme is to ensure the integrity of the UK’s democratic processes and sustain public confidence in them. We are enhancing government capabilities to ensure the safe delivery of democratic events. This includes operating structures such as the Election Cell, which provides a monitoring and response mechanism, and the cross-government Counter-Disinformation Unit. Our work programme will include: introducing voter ID at polling stations; improving the transparency of online political campaigning with a digital imprints regime; and introducing a new electoral sanction to tackle abuse. We are also increasing our efforts with international partners to defend democracy and champion shared values, including through our G7 presidency.
- To bolster our cross-government approach to countering state threats. We will reform laws, policies and practices to remove impediments to the protection of national security, ensuring that the security and intelligence agencies and police have appropriate powers to combat all the threats we now face while appropriately protecting the legal rights of individuals. We will introduce Counter-State Threats legislation when parliamentary time allows. This will revise existing offences - to deal more effectively with the espionage threat - and create new offences, to criminalise other harmful activity conducted by, and on behalf of, states. The legislation will also introduce a form of foreign agent registration scheme. Where legislation engages the Sewel Convention we will seek legislative consent, as well as taking on board views from and working with the devolved administrations.
- To ensure the future security of the UK telecoms network as the basis for secure and safe CNI. Under the provisions of the Telecommunications (Security) Bill, supported by the 5G supply chain diversification strategy, we will: manage and mitigate risks from high-risk vendors; introduce a new, robust security framework for telecoms to ensure our networks are secure and resilient to future challenges; and work with partners, including the Five Eyes, to create a more diverse and competitive supply base for telecoms networks.
- To strengthen cyber security capacity and cooperation with like-minded partners. Our bilateral capacity-building programmes will draw on the UK’s thought leadership and expertise in cyber security, in government and the private sector. They will: enhance partners’ political resilience to common state-related and other advanced persistent threats in cyberspace; build the resilience of overseas infrastructure; share information about supply chain threats and risks; and increase the capacity of cyber law enforcement partners. We will continue to extend our Five Eyes cooperation on cyber security policy and strengthen regional and multilateral platforms for capacity-building.
- To enhance efforts to counter disinformation at home and overseas. We will increase societal resilience in the UK to all forms of disinformation through a new regulatory framework under the Online Safety Bill, as well as a media literacy strategy. Investment in the Government’s behavioural science expertise, horizon-scanning and strategic communications will also help us to improve our response to disinformation campaigns. In addition to bilateral capacity-building programmes for priority partners overseas, the Counter Disinformation and Media Development programme will fund initiatives to understand and expose the disinformation threat and to support independent media, especially in Russia’s near abroad. We will also strengthen international cooperation through multilateral groups such as the G7.
- To use our armed forces to detect, understand and deter state threats below the threshold of war through persistent engagement overseas (see defence textbox). The UK will deploy more of our armed forces overseas more often and for longer periods of time, to train, exercise and operate alongside allies and partners across all our priority regions. Working bilaterally, with partners and in support of NATO missions, we will: build the capacity of others to deter and defend against state threats; support, mentor and, where necessary, assist nations in countering non-state challenges; and strengthen our network of relationships.
- To put diplomacy at the centre of international efforts to counter state threats, building international coalitions for attributing and responding to state threats, including through sanctions. We will also provide diplomatic and expert support to multilateral organisations that uphold international norms on security, such as NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. This will include strong support to the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the Council of Europe’s attribution of Russia’s hostile and destabilising activity.
The nuclear deterrent
The UK’s independent nuclear deterrent has existed for over 60 years to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life, helping to guarantee our security and that of our Allies. We have previously identified risks to the UK from major nuclear armed states, emerging nuclear states and state-sponsored nuclear terrorism. Those risks have not gone away. Some states are now significantly increasing and diversifying their nuclear arsenals. They are investing in novel nuclear technologies and developing new ‘warfighting’ nuclear systems which they are integrating into their military strategies and doctrines and into their political rhetoric to seek to coerce others. The increase in global competition, challenges to the international order, and proliferation of potentially disruptive technologies all pose a threat to strategic stability. The UK must ensure potential adversaries can never use their capabilities to threaten us or our NATO Allies. Nor can we allow them to constrain our decision-making in a crisis or to sponsor nuclear terrorism.
The UK’s minimum, assured, credible nuclear deterrent
The fundamental purpose of our nuclear weapons is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. A minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, assigned to the defence of NATO, remains essential in order to guarantee our security and that of our Allies. In 2010 the Government stated an intent to reduce our overall nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling from not more than 225 to not more than 180 by the mid-2020s. However, in recognition of the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats, this is no longer possible, and the UK will move to an overall nuclear weapon stockpile of no more than 260 warheads.
To ensure that our deterrent is not vulnerable to pre-emptive action by potential adversaries, we will maintain our four submarines so that at least one will always be on a Continuous At Sea Deterrent patrol. Our submarines on patrol are at several days’ notice to fire and, since 1994, we do not target our missiles at any state. We remain committed to maintaining the minimum destructive power needed to guarantee that the UK’s nuclear deterrent remains credible and effective against the full range of state nuclear threats from any direction.
We will continue to keep our nuclear posture under constant review in light of the international security environment and the actions of potential adversaries. We will maintain the capability required to impose costs on an adversary that would far outweigh the benefits they could hope to achieve should they threaten our, or our Allies’, security.
UK nuclear weapons policy
The UK’s nuclear weapons are operationally independent and only the Prime Minister can authorise their use. This ensures that political control is maintained at all times. We would consider using our nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances of self-defence, including the defence of our NATO Allies.
While our resolve and capability to do so if necessary is beyond doubt, we will remain deliberately ambiguous about precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate the use of nuclear weapons. Given the changing security and technological environment, we will extend this long-standing policy of deliberate ambiguity and no longer give public figures for our operational stockpile, deployed warhead or deployed missile numbers. This ambiguity complicates the calculations of potential aggressors, reduces the risk of deliberate nuclear use by those seeking a first-strike advantage, and contributes to strategic stability.
The UK will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 1968 (NPT). This assurance does not apply to any state in material breach of those non-proliferation obligations. However, we reserve the right to review this assurance if the future threat of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological capabilities, or emerging technologies that could have a comparable impact, makes it necessary.
Working with NATO, the US and France
NATO recognises that any employment of nuclear weapons against NATO would fundamentally alter the nature of a conflict. Therefore, as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. Since 1962, the UK has declared our nuclear capability to the defence of the Alliance. We will continue to do so, safeguarding European and Euro-Atlantic security. We will work with Allies to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent capabilities remain safe, secure and effective, adapt to emerging challenges including the growing and diversifying nuclear threats that the Alliance may face, and contribute to the indivisible security of the Alliance.
Nuclear cooperation remains an important element of the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, enhancing transatlantic security. We will continue to work closely with the United States on nuclear matters, including nuclear deterrence policy. The 1958 Mutual Defense Agreement (MDA) has been central to our shared nuclear security goals and we are committed to its renewal in 2024.
Since 1995, France and the United Kingdom, Europe’s only nuclear powers, have stated that they can imagine no circumstances under which a threat to the vital interests of one would not constitute a threat to the vital interests of the other. We will continue our daily and unprecedented cooperation on nuclear issues, including our collaboration under the 2010 Teutates Treaty.
Our future capability
Our independent nuclear deterrent is relevant not only for today but will also remain relevant for the immediate future. It is for these reasons that we have committed to a once-in-two-generations programme to modernise our nuclear forces. This investment in the future security of both the UK and our Allies demonstrates that the UK’s nuclear commitment remains undiminished.
Parliament has voted to renew our nuclear deterrent and replace the Vanguard Class submarines with four new Dreadnought Class submarines. The programme remains within budget and on track for the First of Class to enter service in the early 2030s.
To ensure we maintain an effective deterrent throughout the commission of the Dreadnought Class, we will replace our existing nuclear warhead. We will work with the Atomic Weapons Establishment to build the highly skilled teams, facilities and capabilities needed to deliver this, while also sustaining the current warhead until it is withdrawn from service. We will continue to work closely with the United States to ensure our warhead remains compatible with the Trident Strategic Weapon System, our cooperation underpinned by both the MDA and the 1963 Polaris Sales Agreement.
Delivery of the modernisation of the deterrent will be subject to the Government’s major programme approvals and oversight. We will continue to provide updates through an annual report to Parliament. We will work collaboratively across the defence and civil nuclear sectors to optimise the Defence Nuclear Enterprise for the future. This will ensure that the UK has a minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent for as long as is necessary.
Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation: our commitment to international treaties
We remain committed to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons. We continue to work for the preservation and strengthening of effective arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation measures, taking into account the prevailing security environment. We are strongly committed to full implementation of the NPT in all its aspects, including nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; there is no credible alternative route to nuclear disarmament. The UK has taken a consistent and leading approach to nuclear disarmament. The UK possesses the smallest stockpile of any of the nuclear weapon states recognised by the NPT. We are alone amongst those states in only operating a single nuclear weapon system. We will continue to press for key steps towards multilateral disarmament, including the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and successful negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament. We will continue to take a leading international role on nuclear disarmament verification; this is an essential step for nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international control.
The UK will continue to work internationally to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict and enhance mutual trust and security. We will champion strategic risk reduction and seek to create dialogue among states possessing nuclear weapons, and between states possessing nuclear weapons and non-nuclear weapon states, to increase understanding and reduce the risk of misinterpretation and miscalculation. The UK takes its responsibilities as a nuclear weapon state seriously and will continue to encourage other states to do likewise.
Conflict and instability
It will not be possible to prevent all conflicts through deterrence and building resilience to security threats. Conflict and instability will continue to pose a major test to global security and resilience, marked by weakened or failed states, extreme poverty and flourishing transnational security challenges. External intervention in conflicts is also increasing, as states seek to renegotiate power balances and contest international laws and norms.
The UK will work to reduce the frequency and intensity of conflict and instability, to alleviate suffering and to minimise the opportunities for state and non-state actors to undermine international security. Our bilateral efforts will focus on priority contexts where the increased threat and our ability to have an impact coalesce. We will also continue to support global efforts, including through: championing International Humanitarian Law; contributing specific capabilities in partnership with allies and multilateral organisations; our work at and with the UN; and as a financial and military contributor to UN peacekeeping missions. Our priority actions will be:
- To establish a more integrated approach to government work on conflict and instability, placing greater emphasis on addressing the drivers of conflict (such as grievances, political marginalisation and criminal economies), atrocity prevention and strengthening fragile countries’ resilience to external interference. We will focus on political approaches to conflict resolution, harnessing the full range of government capabilities, with clearly-defined political goals and theories of change. This will enhance our impact and reduce the risk of ‘mission creep’ or of inadvertently doing harm.
- To establish a new conflict centre within the FCDO. This centre will draw on expertise from across government and beyond to develop and lead a strategic conflict agenda, harnessing the breadth of conflict and stability capabilities and working with partners to increase our impact in preventing, managing and resolving conflict in priority regions.
- To build momentum on efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict. In particular, we will work with others to strengthen justice for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, as well as providing support to survivors and children born of conflict-related sexual violence. In doing so, we will continue to follow the ‘do no harm’ principle and take a survivor-centred approach.
- To tighten the focus of the cross-government Conflict, Stability and Security Fund. We will prioritise its resources on the foundational link between stability, resilience and security, and work with governments and civil society in regions that are of greatest priority to the UK. This activity will be supported by funding of £874 million for 2021-22.
Homeland security and transnational security challenges
Transnational security threats such as terrorism, SOC and the proliferation of CBRN and advanced military technology continue to pose a direct threat to the UK’s citizens, interests and values, whether they originate in the UK or overseas. As these threats evolve and increasingly overlap, we will sustain our commitment to homeland security and build on our considerable expertise, linking our national and international efforts.
Countering radicalisation and terrorism
Terrorism remains a major threat to UK citizens and our interests at home and abroad. Although the risks have evolved in recent years, Islamist terrorism continues to pose the primary threat to the UK. There is also a diversifying threat from far-right and, to a lesser extent, far-left, anarchist and single-issue terrorism. In Northern Ireland, the Dissident Republican threat endures and there remains a minority who aim to destabilise the peace process. Paramilitary and criminal activity by both Dissident Republican and Loyalist groups adds to the wider security challenges we face in Northern Ireland.
We will take a robust, full-spectrum approach in response. This will involve addressing the conditions that give rise to terrorism, including through countering the radicalising influence of extremist individuals or groups, as well as maintaining high-end capabilities to disrupt and deter terrorist attacks. Working in the UK and with partners overseas - especially those in the wider European neighbourhood, Africa and the Middle East - our priority actions will be:
- To strengthen the UK’s counter-terrorism (CT) system. Building on the work undertaken since the Anderson Review and Operational Improvement Review, we will: integrate the UK’s CT capabilities in a new Counter Terrorism Operations Centre (see textbox); strengthen the criminal justice system under the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill and the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020; and sustain the £70 million uplift in funding for CT policing in England and Wales into 2021-22. Equivalent funds are available to the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive for CT policing.
Counter Terrorism Operations Centre
Our new Counter Terrorism Operations Centre (CTOC) will create a single, integrated CT centre for the first time, with all the key actors working side-by-side to keep citizens across the UK safe. The centre will bring together government departments, the security and intelligence agencies, law enforcement and operational partners, and elements of the judicial system.
This integrated approach will: improve the speed of response, with multi-agency teams established dynamically to tackle incidents as they unfold; strengthen end-to-end management of terrorist offenders; and foster innovation, including the development and deployment of new capabilities that will help the UK to stay ahead of the evolving threats we face.
- To reinforce our approach to countering radicalisation and terrorism in the UK. We will continue to improve the delivery of the PREVENT programme to safeguard people vulnerable to radicalisation, including through an independent review of its effectiveness and a refreshed training package for policy-makers and practitioners in 2021. A new PROTECT duty will make it a legal requirement for owners and operators of public spaces and venues to take measures to keep the public safe from terrorist attacks.
- To reduce the operational capabilities and intent of those involved in Northern Ireland-related terrorism (NIRT). We will work to degrade the wider ecosystem that supports the NIRT threat through a more flexible operational response. Our efforts to deter individuals and groups from engaging in NIRT will include the promotion of alternative pathways. We will also support improvements in offender management to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
- To address the conditions that give rise to terrorism overseas through our support to open societies and our efforts to tackle conflict and instability. We will also continue to strengthen the CT capabilities of international partners through capacity-building, alongside law enforcement and intelligence cooperation.
- To disrupt the highest-priority terrorist groups overseas using the full range of our CT capabilities. These include our high-end PURSUE capabilities, through targeted military activity, intelligence-sharing and cooperation with international partners. Under persistent engagement, our armed forces will continue to contribute to the Global Coalition against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, provide support to the Government of Afghanistan and support French operations in the Sahel.
- To prevent terrorist activity online. Our objective is to ensure that there are no safe spaces online in which terrorists can promote or share their extreme views. To achieve this, we will continue to challenge terrorists’ presence online, working with technology companies, international partners and civil society organisations, and delivering through the multi-stakeholder Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism and the UK’s law enforcement organisations. Our new online harms regime (see textbox) will further strengthen the response to both illegal and legal but harmful online content in the UK and globally, addressing terrorist material and content relating to child sexual exploitation and abuse in particular.
- To strengthen aviation security worldwide, including through our bilateral programmes with more than 25 countries. Working with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the European Civil Aviation Conference and our Five Eyes partners, we will ensure the effective implementation of global security standards, anticipating evolving threats to aviation.
World-class security and intelligence agencies
The UK’s security and intelligence agencies work to protect the UK and make a vital contribution to an open international order. They do so by helping us to understand and get ahead of malign actors, partnering with allies across the world to prevent harm, improving attribution of responsibility for attacks and abuses, and strengthening collective responses.
The security and intelligence agencies include SIS, GCHQ and MI5. They work on a range of issues including counter-terrorism, state threats, cyber security, SOC, counter-proliferation and supporting UK defence. Since 2019, the budget supporting this activity has risen in real terms by an average of 5.4% a year, to £3.1 billion in 2021-22. It includes £695 million in additional R&D funding between 2021-22 and 2024-25 to support the development of cutting-edge capabilities.
Our approach to intelligence is predicated on rigorous, independent assessment for effective national security policy-making, with the intelligence analysis profession overseen across government by the Joint Intelligence Committee. Robust legislation also ensures that the security and intelligence agencies’ work fully reflects our values in being democratically accountable, as transparent as possible and meeting our human rights obligations.
Serious and organised crime
SOC[footnote 2] directly undermines the safety of UK citizens, the integrity of the state and confidence in our financial system - costing the UK at least £37 billion each year. Organised criminality is linked to much of the crime experienced in communities: it is estimated that 45% of all acquisitive crime is committed by people who regularly use heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine and that nearly 50% of murders are drugs-related. Overseas, SOC is a threat to international security and prosperity: it extends and exacerbates conflicts; undermines allies and partners’ stability; and inflicts the highest economic cost on the lowest-income countries.
Organised crime groups are resilient to disruption, moving across crime types to exploit opportunities in search of criminal profit. The most sophisticated groups use technology such as encrypted communications to remain outside the attention of law enforcement. We must address the visible symptoms, enablers and underlying causes of SOC, disrupting, dismantling and destroying criminal enterprises at home and overseas. The inherently transnational nature of SOC means that our approach must link the local response with the regional, national and international. Our priority actions, in response to the 2020 Mackey Review, will be:
- To bolster our response to the most pressing threats the UK faces from organised criminals, including: economic crime, illicit finance and fraud, with an additional £83 million investment to ensure our economy is a safe place to do business; tackling child sexual abuse through a new cross-government strategy published in January 2021; doubling our investment in tackling county lines and drugs supply; and tackling the most pernicious forms of cybercrime, such as ransomware, including by blocking malicious online activity at scale through Active Cyber Defence. We will also take measures to ensure that the next generation of digital technologies are deployed in a way that safeguards their security.
- To strengthen the National Crime Agency (NCA), meeting our manifesto commitment and developing the critical data, intelligence and investigative capabilities required for the NCA to lead the law enforcement system in England and Wales. We will pursue greater integration where there is an overlap with other threats such as terrorism and state threats. We will ensure that the NCA’s funding mechanism supports the delivery of long-term goals and its ability to adapt to changing threats.
- To increase regional and local policing capacity. We will bolster Regional Organised Crime Units in coordination with local policing and the NCA. This includes our recruitment in 2021-22 of 300 police officers dedicated to SOC, as part of our commitment to recruit a total of 20,000 extra police officers by 2023. We will revise the Strategic Policing Requirement so that it more effectively supports policing’s response to national threats. In 2021-22 we will pilot the improved use of Serious Crime Prevention Orders to prevent crimes before they happen. Our investment of an additional £275 million in the criminal justice system will help to bring more offenders to justice.
- To strengthen international efforts to disrupt and dismantle SOC networks. In doing so, we will build on the work of our diplomatic and operational networks such as the NCA’s liaison officers and work closely with international partners such as the Five Eyes and the EU, including via our liaison officers at Europol. In particular, we will work with like-minded partners to strengthen Interpol’s support to frontline law enforcement, increasing data-sharing and investing in Interpol’s technical capabilities.
- To tackle SOC within the UK’s territorial sea, through: coordinated action between the UK Border Force, law enforcement and the Royal Navy; and implementation of the UK 2025 border strategy (see textbox). Coordinating closely with France in particular, we will continue to work with European partners to manage shared maritime spaces such as the Channel, and the North and Irish Seas.
The UK border: the gateway for Global Britain
Our vision is that by 2025 the UK border will be the most effective in the world. The border is more than a line on a map: it is a combination of policies, processes and systems delivered by both public and private organisations across more than 270 recognised crossing points and many other smaller entry points across the UK.
The smooth operation of the border is vital to the UK’s economy, enabling travel and trade with the rest of the world. It is also a unique intervention point in enhancing the security and biosecurity of the UK: preventing terrorists, criminals and illicit goods from reaching our streets; preventing illegal migration; and protecting plant, animal and human health. However, changing trends in trade, migration and security, as well as major events like the COVID-19 pandemic, mean our border is under more pressure than ever before.
Our cross-government action under the 2025 UK border strategy will build on the implementation of our new points-based immigration system, the Government’s 2050 maritime strategy and export strategy, and our efforts to tackle illegal migration (see textbox). Working with the devolved administrations and local authorities, law enforcement, industry and international partners, we will deliver the six transformations and the Target Operating Model needed to meet our vision. This will involve making better use of data and advanced analytics, technology and innovation, and creating a highly skilled workforce.
Diagram with six boxes showing the six main changes that will be made to the UK border as part of the 2025 UK border strategy.
Text: We will increase the effectiveness of the UK’s border with six transformative changes which will promote prosperity and enhance security. Develop a coordinated approach to border design and delivery which enables border innovation Bring together Government’s collection, assurance and use of border data. Establish resilient ‘ports of the future’ at border crossing points. Use upstream compliance to move processes away from the actual frontier where appropriate. Build the capability of staff responsible for delivering border processes. Shape the future development of borders worldwide to facilitate end-to-end trade and travel.
Strengthening global arms control, disarmament and counter-proliferation
Countering proliferation[footnote 3] is integral to the UK’s security and prosperity. It helps to maintain regional and global stability, reduces threats to our citizens and armed forces, facilitates safe trade for our industry and protects high-skilled jobs across the UK. Our successes in the past five years - including the response to Russia’s Salisbury attack and the attribution of chemical weapons use in Syria - have contributed to our global reputation as a force for good and an S&T power.
To protect these gains, we must: address growing threats from states such as Iran, Russia and North Korea; respond to emerging threats such as the illicit acquisition of advanced and dual-use technologies; and reinforce the global counter-proliferation architecture against growing pressures, shaping its future in our interest. Our priority actions will be:
- To reinforce international governance of state access to CBRN weapons, materials or related technology through our work with the relevant treaty bodies – especially the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose nuclear safeguards system we will strengthen. In particular, we will do more to expose non-compliance with governing treaties (see nuclear deterrent section). Alongside our allies, the UK will hold Iran to account for its nuclear activity, remaining open to talks on a more comprehensive nuclear and regional deal. We will also remain the most engaged non-regional partner on North Korea’s denuclearisation and on sanctions enforcement.
- To reduce tensions in South Asia, by encouraging regional dialogue on nuclear responsibilities, and by working with states there to understand and respond to safety and security threats to the region.
- To counter proliferation to states. Using intelligence analysis, we will increase our knowledge of those who seek access to CBRN and advanced military and dual-use technology. We will tackle proliferation networks and proliferation finance by identifying hot spots, routes and mechanisms for their transfer. Improvements to the Academic Technology Approval Scheme will help to stop states from using research relationships with UK academia to steal intellectual property and obtain knowledge that could be used to develop CBRN weapons and their means of delivery, or advanced military technology.
- To counter proliferation to non-state actors, strengthening the security and safety of nuclear materials in priority countries. We will also reduce the risk of terrorist acquisition of biological agents through our International Biological Security Programme and the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.
- To balance the opportunities of new technologies with controls, sustaining our own legitimate investment and supporting other responsible states’ use of new technologies through technical cooperation. Working with experts, industry and allies, the UK will maintain an efficient export control system on weapons and dual-use technology that adapts with technological change. We will also recommend changes to counter-proliferation regimes and international governance that take account of new routes to CBRN and advanced weapons enabled by technology.
Building resilience at home and overseas
COVID-19 is unlikely to be the last global crisis of the 2020s. As the world becomes both more interconnected and contested, incidents in one region – a novel virus, the loss of habitats or a cyber-attack – can have systemic consequences worldwide, which we cannot always predict or avert. This means that as well as strengthening our security, we need to build our resilience across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: addressing the root causes of risks, and increasing the UK’s preparedness to withstand and recover from crises when they occur.
The UK’s resilience is intertwined with global resilience. The transnational nature of many challenges, from climate change and biosecurity loss to biosecurity and energy security crises, means that no single government can address them alone. Yet COVID-19 has shown how quickly international cooperation can falter under stress. It has also highlighted the vulnerabilities that have resulted from the global trend towards optimising governance and processes for efficiency, rather than for resilience.
As the world recovers from the pandemic, we must strengthen global resilience - ensuring that more resilient countries worldwide can come together through stronger international institutions to act on the most pressing shared challenges. Alongside our efforts to respond to a more challenging security environment, greater resilience is essential if we are to ensure an international order in which open societies and economies can flourish.
Our first goal is to build our national resilience, so that we are able to reduce the impact of acute shocks and longer-term challenges on lives and livelihoods in the UK. National resilience is the product of multiple factors, including effective and trusted governance, government capabilities, social cohesion, and individual and business resilience. Achieving this goal therefore requires a national effort, supported by the Government’s wider domestic agenda. In particular, we will adopt a new approach to preparedness and response to risks, which fully recognises that natural hazards and other risks can cause as much disruption to the UK’s core interests as security threats.
Our second goal is to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, which require immediate and concerted action worldwide. This will be the UK’s foremost international priority, building on our domestic commitment to reach net zero by 2050. We will work to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon global economy, protect and restore biodiversity, and support adaptation and resilience - particularly for the most vulnerable worldwide.
Our third goal is to build health resilience at home and at the international level, recognising the interconnected nature of our global health system. In particular, we will bolster our efforts to improve pandemic preparedness - taking a One Health approach - and to reform the WHO, applying the lessons of COVID-19.
Building the UK’s national resilience
Resilience has long been part of the UK’s approach to national security. But in an increasingly interconnected world, in which we cannot predict or stop all of the challenges ahead, we need to renew our approach - making resilience a national endeavour, so that as a country we are prepared for the next crisis, whatever it might be.
The Government will continue to prepare for and respond to individual risks, whether terrorism, flooding or a new pandemic. Learning the lessons of COVID-19, we will also seek to build a better understanding of the UK’s strengths and weaknesses, and improve our national preparedness and readiness across the whole risk lifecycle, from anticipation to recovery. To do so, the Government will start developing a comprehensive national resilience strategy in 2021, in partnership with the devolved administrations and English regions, local government, the private sector and the public. Under this strategy, our priority actions will be:
- To establish a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to resilience, so that individuals, businesses and organisations all play a part in building resilience across the UK. We will seek to develop an integrated approach, bringing together all levels of government, CNI operators, the wider private sector, civil society and the public. As part of this, we will: improve government communications to the public on preparedness; consider strengthening the role and responsibilities of local resilience forums (LRFs) in England; and consider the scope and responsibilities of CNI owners and operators to ensure a consistent resilience standard across CNI sectors. This is in addition to any necessary sector-specific legislation, such as the Telecommunications (Security) Bill. The new cyber strategy will contribute to this overall approach, increasing the UK’s resilience to cyber risks. This will include raising the level of cyber security across CNI sectors and increasing the adoption of the NCSC’s Cyber Assessment Framework.
- To consider threats and hazards in the round, so that we can build national resilience across the diverse range of risks facing the UK: malicious and non-malicious, direct and indirect, and acute and chronic - including low-probability, catastrophic-impact events. This means integrating national security with economic, health and environmental policy, and taking an approach that covers the full lifecycle of risk: anticipation, prevention, preparation, response and recovery. As part of this, we will more closely link our domestic and international action, putting more emphasis on acting upstream to tackle risks at source - from climate action to cyber capacity-building and efforts to disrupt transnational organised crime groups.
- To develop more capabilities - people, skills and equipment - that can be used across a range of scenarios. We will improve our ability to test and develop our capabilities through contingency planning and regular exercises, bringing together government, the emergency services, the armed forces, other local responders and industry. The armed forces will also continue to provide support to emergency responses - such as COVID-19 - through Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA), and we plan on making greater use of the military reserves in supporting domestic national security priorities. We will also consider how to extend this to a civilian reservist cadre for support in times of crisis.
- To review our approach to risk assessment. The National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) is a classified document which lists and assesses the impact and likelihood of the most serious risks facing the UK and its interests overseas. It is produced in conjunction with all risk-owning departments and agencies and its findings were reviewed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The publicly available version of the NSRA, the National Risk Register, was published in December 2020. A review of the NSRA methodology is currently underway, which will address all aspects of the underlying methodology, including how we account for interdependencies, cascading and compound risks.
- To strengthen our analytical, policy and operational tools - including the collection and use of data - to better assess cross-cutting, complex risks. We will establish a new Situation Centre to provide live data and rapid analysis, supporting collaboration across government and informing crisis decision-making. We will also invest in the digital transformation of the security and intelligence agencies and in ‘all source’ assessment that brings this intelligence together with open-source information.
Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss
The window of opportunity the world has to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis is shrinking. Urgent action is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C and to end species decline and environmental destruction. Without it, nature loss could result in a cumulative economic cost of up to $10 trillion between 2011 and 2050. In particular, we must accelerate the global transition to net zero, laying the foundations for future growth and creating new, sustainable employment in the industries of the future. We must also increase our collective resilience to the damage that has already been done, in particular supporting the most vulnerable worldwide in adapting to climate effects and nature loss.
The UK is already at the forefront of climate action. Since 2000, we have reduced emissions more quickly than any other country in the G20, and were the first major economy to adopt a legal obligation to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The UK invested £5.8 billion in International Climate Finance (ICF) between April 2016 and March 2021. In November 2021 we will host COP26 in Glasgow, bringing together the 197 parties which have signed or acceded to the Paris Agreement to agree further action on climate mitigation, adaptation and finance.
Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss will be the UK’s international priority through COP26 and beyond. Our priority actions will be:
- To accelerate the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050, working with the devolved administrations and drawing on strengths and expertise across the UK, such as green hydrogen and wind power in Wales. We will take an ambitious approach, including through the ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, a forthcoming series of sector strategies (such as the transport decarbonisation plan) and our overarching net zero strategy. Our aim is to become the world’s leading centre for green technology, finance and wind energy, mobilising £12 billion of government investment and much more private investment to create and support up to 250,000 jobs across the UK. We will increase support for net zero innovation and new industries, including in low-carbon hydrogen production and carbon capture and storage. Through the proposed North Sea Transition Deal, we will support the UK’s oil and gas hubs to diversify into new energies, protecting and creating new jobs in areas such as the north east of England and Scotland. We will issue the UK’s first Sovereign Green Bond in 2021 and become the first G20 country to make disclosures specified by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures fully mandatory across the economy by 2025, with most requirements introduced by 2023.
- To accelerate the global transition to net zero, ensuring that everyone can share the opportunities of clean growth sooner. The shift to a green global economy requires action from everyone - from the largest and most advanced economies to developing countries and small island developing states, across governments, businesses and individual citizens. As COP26 president, the UK will seek to reach a positive negotiated outcome which balances the interests of all the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, with more ambitious nationally-determined contributions and long-term decarbonisation strategies. We have also committed to align all of our ODA with the Paris Agreement, and we will consult on ending new direct financial or promotional support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas.
- To strengthen adaptation to the effects of climate change that cannot be prevented or reversed, supporting the most vulnerable worldwide in particular. We will seek ambitious commitments on finance for adaptation and resilience at COP26. The UK has already committed £11.6 billion to ICF between 2021 and 2025 and doubled our contribution to the Green Climate Fund, to £1.44 billion. At home, the Second National Adaptation Programme (2018) sets out a five-year strategy to make the UK more resilient to climate change, including action on the most pressing risks such as flooding. We will also seek nature-based solutions, such as the £80 million Green Recovery Challenge - which funds projects that restore nature - and the £640 million Nature for Climate Fund for tree-planting and peat restoration.
- To reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, delivering the goals set by the Paris Agreement, the commitments of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the 2020 Leaders’ Pledge for Nature. We will protect and restore nature, including by driving support for ambitious new global targets for nature at the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15) in Kunming in 2021, to improve ecosystem resilience and species recovery, and to tackle the causes of nature loss. We will continue to campaign for global agreement to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean globally by 2030, through our Global Ocean Alliance and as co-chair, with Costa Rica and France, of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and lead the Global Ocean Alliance. The UK will lead by example, protecting 30% of our own land and sea by 2030.
- To drive sustainable and legal use of natural resources. The UK will promote agriculture that regenerates ecosystems and provides healthier and more sustainable food. We will convene the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Dialogue, bringing together the world’s largest producer and consumer countries of forest-risk commodities to agree collaborative actions that will protect forests whilst promoting trade and development. At home, we will introduce a new law to prevent trade of products in the UK that contribute to illegal deforestation. We will also continue working to end the market for illegal wildlife products, strengthening law enforcement efforts and supporting sustainable alternative livelihoods.
- To invest in nature and a ‘nature positive’ economy, integrating biodiversity into economic decision-making in response to the findings of the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity. We will increase finance for nature and for nature-based solutions to climate change, including by spending at least £3 billion of our ICF on nature over the next five years, and supporting the protection and restoration of critical habitats, including through our Biodiverse Landscapes Fund and Blue Planet Fund.
Circle diagram with ten bullet points around the edge.
Offshore wind: producing 40GW - enough offshore wind to power every home in the UK
Low-carbon hydrogen: aiming for 5GW of production by 2030 and pioneering hydrogen heating trials
Delivering new and advanced nuclear power: investing in the next generation of nuclear technology (large and smaller-scale plants and advanced modular reactors)
Zero-emission vehicles: ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, while backing our automotive sector, supported by £2.8bn
Green public transport, cycling and walking: investing £5bn in zero-emission public transport
Jet zero and green ships: researching projects for zero-emission planes, ships and sustainable aviation fuels
Greener buildings: £1bn to make homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient
Carbon capture: £1bn to become a world leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions
Nature: protecting and restoring our natural environment, including £5.2bn for flood defences
Innovation and finance: developing cutting-edge low-carbon technologies and a new sovereign green bond
Ensuring the supply of secure, affordable and clean energy is essential to the UK’s national interests. In the years ahead, our focus will be on the transition to clean energy. As set out in the energy white paper, we will decarbonise our energy system, boosting the production of clean energy and seeking to reduce the costs of new technologies by deploying at scale.
As we make this transition, oil and gas will remain an important, if diminishing, part of the UK’s energy supply. We will work with our international partners to maintain secure global oil supplies, particularly in the Middle East. As a member of the International Energy Agency, the UK continues to hold international oil stocks that can be released in the event of major disruption. We will also support efforts to ensure European gas security, seeking to avoid disruption which could have knock-on impact for prices and supply.
More widely, we will protect the UK’s energy CNI, which remains an attractive target for attacks by states and non-state actors such as terrorists and criminals. This will involve ensuring adequate defence against new cyber security risks as our energy system becomes increasingly reliant on digital technologies. We will also promote nuclear safety, high standards and safeguards both through our participation in the International Atomic Energy Agency and bilaterally.
Supporting a resilient ocean
The world has one ocean shared by all nations. The ocean provides 50% of the oxygen we breathe, supports livelihoods worldwide, contains vast biological and mineral resources, and is critical to trade. But it is coming under pressure from climate change and environmental degradation, growing tensions around maritime choke points, including the Strait of Hormuz and the South China Sea, as well as migration, piracy and SOC.
The UK’s vision is that by 2030 the ocean will be effectively governed, clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse, linking resilient and prosperous coastal communities around the world, and supporting sustainable economic growth for the UK, the Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies. To deliver this vision, we will combine our work on maritime security, the environment and trade. Fundamental to this will be an absolute commitment to upholding the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in all its dimensions, as an essential enabler of global prosperity, security and a healthy planet.
The Royal Navy’s new Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance Ship will demonstrate this more integrated approach in practice, protecting our CNI at sea and improving our knowledge of the maritime environment. The Royal Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels, alongside the UK Border Force, will continue to support border surveillance, shipping safety, maritime environmental protection, fishery activity control, search and rescue operations and customs enforcement.
In addition, we will:
- Protect the maritime environment, supporting international action through the UK-led Global Ocean Alliance and other coalitions. We will strengthen our marine science capabilities, contributing to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and use our new Blue Planet Fund to protect and restore marine ecosystems and resources, support sustainable fisheries and reduce poverty. We will also continue to enhance marine protection around the Overseas Territories, including across the 4.3 million square kilometres of marine environment already protected through the Blue Belt programme.
- Deploy more of our naval assets across the world to protect shipping lanes and uphold freedom of navigation. The Joint Maritime Security Centre will support this, strengthening operational maritime coordination across government. The Royal Navy’s Maritime Component Command in Bahrain will continue to ensure the flow of trade in the Gulf, including through support to part of the new International Maritime Security Construct.
- Contribute to wider maritime security, including in tackling piracy off the coast of West Africa as co-chair of the G7 Friends of the Gulf of Guinea Group in 2021.
Building health resilience
Infectious disease outbreaks are likely to become more frequent in the coming years, while antimicrobial resistance (AMR) remains a long-term challenge to human health. As COVID-19 has shown, such health crises can have devastating human, economic and social consequences, testing national responses and the global health system, and straining international cooperation.
We must learn the lessons of COVID-19, bolstering our domestic and international action to address global health risks as part of our wider approach to biosecurity.[footnote 4] In doing so, we will build on our One Health approach, which recognises the close connection between the health of people, animals and the environment. Reflecting the interconnected nature of our global health system, we will sustain our support to health programmes in developing countries. We will also continue our collaboration with partners including the EU and the multilateral development banks on issues such as AMR, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Our priority actions will be:
- To accelerate equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics (VTDs) worldwide as the fastest route to national and global recovery from the current crisis. Our goal is to have offered the entire UK adult population the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of July 2021 under our domestic vaccination programme, which also extends to our Overseas Territories. The UK will continue to support developing countries’ access to COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment, through our contribution of £548 million, continued leadership to close the funding gap and support for rapid approval of vaccines in line with international standards of safety, quality and efficacy. We have committed to share the majority of any future surplus vaccines from our supply with COVAX, while our commitment of £1.65 billion over five years to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will support immunisation of children in the world’s poorest countries. And to strengthen detection of new COVID-19 variants worldwide, our experts will offer support in genomic sequencing to other countries through the New Variants Assessment Platform.
- To review and reinforce the cross-government approach to biosecurity, as part of our efforts to learn the lessons of the COVID-19 response and to build our national resilience. Our ongoing review of responsibility for biosecurity within government will inform future considerations relating to a revised biosecurity strategy and potential machinery-of-government changes.
- To strengthen the UK’s preparedness for future pandemics, taking a One Health approach. Building on the creation of the Joint Biosecurity Centre and the National Institute for Health Protection in 2020, we will improve surveillance, understanding and communication of emerging domestic and cross-border health threats, including zoonoses.[footnote 5] We will undertake scenario analysis and contingency planning within the UK, including to ensure the resilience of medical supply chains. And we will review our national stockpile of clinical countermeasures and consumables such as personal protective equipment, expanded testing capability and laboratory equipment, ensuring they meet the planning assumptions within the 2020 National Risk Register.
- To reform the global health system, strengthening coherence across the international architecture - including between health and economic institutions - and harnessing the potential of data to improve global surveillance. We will seek reform of the WHO, supported by a 30% increase in UK core funding to £340 million over the next four years. We will support stronger health systems worldwide, with improved capacity to comply with the International Health Regulations. To strengthen the One Health approach worldwide, we will seek to establish a Global One Health Intelligence Hub, providing countries and organisations with a single source of intelligence on human, animal and environmental risks, as well as global networks of zoonotic experts and zoonotic centres of excellence - including a centre in the UK. We will also strengthen domestic and international efforts to combat the threat posed by increasing AMR.
- To strengthen global pandemic preparedness, building on the Prime Minister’s five-point plan to prevent future pandemics. The UK will seek to accelerate the development and deployment of VTDs for emerging diseases, using our G7 presidency to cut the development and deployment of vaccines for priority pathogens to 100 days through partnership between governments, industry and international organisations. We will also seek to increase and improve R&D for VTDs, including through: genomic sequencing and assessing zoonotic links; increasing innovation in storage and deployment; and standardising clinical trials and harnessing data. We will ensure sustainable financing for pandemic preparedness and response, and explore a WHO-led pandemic preparedness treaty, to improve international coordination and collaboration.
Resilience and migration
Cross-border migration will likely increase over the coming decade, driven by a growing global population and climate change, instability and economic factors. This will have consequences for many countries around the world, including the UK.
The UK has a long and positive history of migration. Most migrants move through safe, legal routes. The economic benefits of their doing so are enormous - both for host countries, including the UK, and for their countries of origin, for example through remittances. Following our departure from the EU, we will use our new points-based immigration system to ensure we can secure the talent we need for key sectors in our economy, not least to sustain our competitive edge in S&T, which is pivotal to productivity and jobs in other sectors across all parts of the UK.
As a force for good in the world, the UK will remain sensitive to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. We have a proud track record of protecting those who need it, in accordance with our international obligations. Our resettlement schemes have provided safe and legal routes for tens of thousands of people to start new lives in the UK. Since 2015, we have resettled more than 25,000 refugees across all our resettlement schemes, around half of whom were children, including many affected by the conflict in Syria.
The UK is also committed to tackling irregular migration because it endangers lives, often those of the most vulnerable, and places burdens on host countries. We will work with European and other partners to manage the movement of people within Europe’s wider neighbourhood, including towards the UK – whether they are pursuing economic opportunities overseas or escaping instability at home.
Such people flows can be complex, spanning multiple jurisdictions across large distances. We will take a whole-of-route approach, working through our diplomatic and development network along key migration routes - from Africa via the Mediterranean, from the Middle East via Eastern Mediterranean and from Asia via Eastern Europe. In doing so, we will help to shore up stability and improve socio-economic conditions in fragile regions, thereby addressing the issues that drive irregular migration in the first place. We will also build capacity upstream for enforcement, including to address organised immigration crime, which exploits the vulnerable. We will protect the most vulnerable, including by offering support to the victims of trafficking, modern slavery and exploitation.
We will return people without the right to remain in the UK to their countries of origin or another safe country, rebalancing the asylum system to disincentivise specific illegal routes and strengthening the returns process. We will also increase our capability to tackle the migrant challenge in the Channel, including ending the dangerous, illegal and unnecessary small boat crossings, through collaboration with France and other near neighbours.
Implementing the Integrated Review
The Integrated Review has established new and demanding ambitions for the UK’s national security and international policy in an increasingly complex, contested and interconnected global context. Success will depend on more integrated, adaptive and innovative structures and capabilities, reaching beyond central government where necessary.
‘Integration’ is not a new theme in the UK’s approach to national security, although the language used to describe it has varied over time. Systems and capabilities have been increasingly integrated across as well as within departments, most visibly through joint units, joint funding mechanisms and cross-Whitehall governance mechanisms, with the National Security Council (NSC) at the apex. The establishment of the FCDO in 2020 signalled the Government’s intent to ensure deeper integration of the UK’s international capabilities and delivery, and recognised that fundamental organisational structures still matter. This chapter sets out the main priorities for enabling integrated strategy-making and delivery across government and beyond, ensuring the successful implementation of the Integrated Review’s ambitions.
Strengthening strategy and implementation
The NSC will remain the key formal mechanism through which ministers collectively set national security strategy and policy, and oversee implementation. The 2018 National Security Capability Review reformed the structures that support the NSC and introduced new cross-Whitehall mechanisms for providing advice and supporting implementation of its priorities. These reforms have been effective in some areas, bringing greater coherence and structure to advice on complex strategic issues, and better supporting coordinated delivery. Overall, however, more flexibility and agility is needed in the way in which departments tackle cross-cutting challenges, with clearer accountability for delivery under stronger ministerial oversight. Ministers should be engaged collectively at earlier stages in policy-making and more emphasis needs to be placed on effective implementation, including in reporting to and review by the NSC.
The National Security Adviser will therefore review national security systems and processes to ensure that Integrated Review objectives and priority actions, as well as future policy decisions, are implemented swiftly and effectively, and to establish systems that better support the NSC.
Strategy capability: stronger collective strategy capability is fundamental to successful, integrated implementation. During the Integrated Review process, we have developed or employed a number of tools and techniques for strategic analysis, assessment and challenge, as well as better links with a range of external bodies to support policy development. Some of this capability will be developed further for ongoing support to strategy implementation and development. This includes:
- Better technological skills and capability within strategy functions.
- Strategic communications and public engagement capability.
- Enhanced access to evidence, including the use of futures, foresight techniques, data and challenge.
The new Net Assessment function within the MOD is an example of the type of capability we will create to support cross-government strategy-making.
Digital and data: a continuing focus on interoperability through architectures, standards and development methods will be required so that teams across government can work effectively together across all levels of security. This will need to be underpinned by investment in next-generation secure digital, data and technology platforms, skills and a strong focus on improving knowledge and information management practices. We will focus on the responsible use of new data platforms, digital tools and participative processes to support policy-making and improve inclusivity and transparency. Our new Central Digital and Data Office will be an important catalyst for further change.
Culture, diversity and inclusion: achieving a culture that supports integration, adaptation and innovation is critical. The national security community was one of the first parts of the Government to trial a new Civil Service-wide approach to culture change. Recognising that diversity and inclusivity are operational imperatives, we have driven initiatives such as a ‘Mission Critical’ toolkit for staff and shadow boards. In doing so, we have built on lessons from reports including the Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction (Butler), the Report of the Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot) and Windrush Lessons Learned (Williams). We have also tested innovations in reverse mentoring, targeted recruitment and development, national security vetting transformation, workplace adjustments and digital outreach.
However, there is much more to do to harness the diverse perspectives and experience that drive innovation and adaptation and to maintain the collaborative, agile and inclusive behaviours needed to enable integration. We will learn from arrangements made during the COVID-19 pandemic which demonstrated the potential to work more flexibly and inclusively. We will need to:
- Become better connected to, and fully representative of, the people we serve. Despite some progress, the national security and international policy community has much further to travel.
- Foster a culture that encourages more and different kinds of challenge, further developing capabilities such as red-teaming to mitigate the cognitive biases that affect decision-making.
- Develop a strategic approach to recruitment and development to increase the flow and diversity of people into, and out of, the community so that we have a robust pipeline of diverse future talent.
- Target roles for external recruitment where such experience would be beneficial, and locate a wider range of roles across all the regions of the UK.
Professionalisation, training and skills: delivering the Integrated Review will depend on the availability of people with the right skills, experience and security clearances to form flexible, diverse and multidisciplinary teams. Regular experience of joint working, greater efforts in recent years to develop relevant professional courses, and the development of clustered security vetting services are helping to build these capabilities. However, faster progress is needed. In preparation for the next SR, we will review the case for a dedicated College for National Security as part of the Government’s new Curriculum and Campus for Government Skills. This could upgrade our workforce and the tools available to it, driving culture change, providing a platform for international collaboration and establishing S&T as a core skill. We will also further use military reservists to support the full range of national security priorities and explore options for a wider civilian reserve.
The Government has launched a new Performance and Planning Framework and is establishing an Evaluation Taskforce. The Framework sets out priority outcomes, including four which will cover the Integrated Review’s major themes and which are intended to be supported by multiple departments. Government departments will develop Outcome Delivery Plans, against which ministers will receive regular performance reports. This will provide the ability to monitor implementation (projects, programmes and outputs) and measure impact (outcomes and benefits), as well as complementing other monitoring mechanisms for tracking delivery, such as the Government Major Projects Portfolio.
A Defence Command Paper will be published alongside the Integrated Review, setting out plans for defence in more detail. We intend to publish further strategies, including on resilience, cyber and international development, in due course. Future SRs will provide further opportunities to align spending plans with the priorities set by the Integrated Review.
Annex A: Integrated Review priorities funded in Spending Review 2020
The Integrated Review sets out the Prime Minister’s vision for a UK that is stronger at home and in the world, ensuring that we can match our ambitions for Global Britain. That vision is reflected in spending decisions in SR 2020, including departmental settlements and funding for new initiatives. SR 2020 has set us on the path to achieve our outcomes with funding provided to priority areas of resilience, security, climate change, domestic R&D, clean technology and to maintaining our cutting-edge military and world-class diplomatic network. The Strategic Framework will guide future SRs, which will offer further opportunities to align resources with ambition over the longer term.
This section sets out the specific measures within SR 2020 that support the delivery of the Strategic Framework. We have divided the information below into chapter categories but most of the capabilities described are cross-cutting and will be used in support of activity described in more than one chapter.
SR 2020 Commitment
Clean energy technologies (BEIS)
Nearly £15bn funding including:
UK security and intelligence agencies R&D
National Cyber Force (MOD)
Cyber security (NCSP)
Digital & data (DCMS)
2. Shaping the open international order of the future
Diplomatic network (FCDO)
Soft power (FCDO/DCMS/DfE)
Economic crime (HO)
3. Strengthening security and defence at home and overseas
CBRN - nuclear detection capability (HO)
Conflict, Stability and Security Fund
Counter Terrorism (HO/UK security and intelligence agencies)
Serious and Organised Crime (HO)
UK security and intelligence agencies
Telecommunications Diversification (DCMS)
4. Building resilience at home and overseas
Situation Centre and Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (CO)
Climate change and biodiversity
Health resilience (DHSC, BEIS, MHCLG, FCDO)
Official Development Assistance (ODA)
Implementing the Integrated Review
Annex B: Evidence and engagement
This annex sets out our approach to building the evidence base for the Integrated Review. The ambition was to root the review in the best available evidence, analysis and expertise, drawing on a diverse range of high-quality sources to create a foreign policy baseline; taking key partners’ and stakeholders’ views into consideration; and embedding evidence and rigour throughout the strategy development process.
To achieve this ambition, we undertook a systematic programme of engagement, analysis and challenge. We established new processes and products where these were needed to address gaps and better inform decision-making. Lessons learned during the process will inform our future approach to engagement and our use of evidence.
This programme was designed to support each stage of the strategy development and drafting process. This involved working with government departments and agencies, the UK’s overseas networks, and experts, practitioners and partners from across the globe. In particular, we sought to:
- Identify and understand the established and emergent trends in the domestic and international system.
- Highlight what the UK could and should learn from other countries and from the private sector.
- Clarify the strengths and weaknesses of the UK’s current policies, processes, systems and capabilities, and identify what needed to change.
New mechanisms were established to integrate efforts across government so that the Review benefited from the full range of expertise and resources available, including extensive domestic and overseas networks and research and assessment capabilities. Three programmes of activity were developed: engagement; analysis and assessment; and challenge and assurance.
We designed engagement to bring in different perspectives and policy ideas from across the UK and around the world. We adapted the programme in light of COVID-19 to make full use of online platforms and we issued a public call for evidence.
International partners and stakeholders: the Cabinet Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and later the FCDO, designed and delivered a virtual international engagement programme to which heads of mission, ministers and senior officials contributed. In particular, senior officials - including the Deputy National Security Adviser for the Integrated Review and the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on Foreign Policy - held more than 100 engagements with over 20 countries across six continents, with a particular focus on key allies and partners. With support from Wilton Park, we convened 22 young leaders and emerging experts from 14 different countries to better understand young people’s perspectives on, and ambitions for, the future.
Departmental engagement: government departments and agencies consulted networks and stakeholder groups across the UK and the world to inform inputs to the Integrated Review, although this process was necessarily restricted due to COVID-19. For example, the FCDO established a group of experts and hosted roundtables on key themes and GO-Science consulted established networks such as the UK Science and Innovation Network (SIN) to coordinate a range of inputs from external experts. Chief Scientific Advisers across government also played an important role in improving the standards of evidence use throughout the Integrated Review. This included support from the FCDO Research and Evidence Division (RED) to review the Integrated Review evidence base.
Public engagement: gaining perspectives from the public was vital to informing the Integrated Review, although the process was necessarily restricted due to COVID-19. New research was conducted to understand public perceptions of foreign policy and national security at home and overseas. On 13 August 2020, we launched a public call for evidence. Contributions were invited on a range of security, defence, development and foreign policy questions. We received more than 450 submissions from individuals and organisations. Organisational respondents included representatives of a range of industries, non-governmental organisations, international organisations, academia, think tanks, local government, LRFs, the media, religious organisations and fire and police organisations. We reviewed and catalogued the submissions, which we then shared with policy-makers and senior officials across government.
Parliamentary engagement: we made extensive use of reports by the relevant parliamentary committees. During the Integrated Review process, officials briefed the House of Commons Select Committees on Defence, Foreign Affairs and International Development. The Prime Minister gave evidence to the Liaison Committee on the Integrated Review. The Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary also gave evidence to the relevant departmental select committees, the then-National Security Adviser gave evidence to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, and Defence Minister (Lords) led briefing sessions for members of the House of Lords.
Experts and practitioners: with support from the Government’s Open Innovation Team and Wilton Park, we engaged academics and experts from more than 30 different institutions and 20 countries. This included five facilitated discussion sessions and three roundtables with senior officials. Senior officials conducted a virtual tour of established think tanks and new research bodies. During the Integrated Review, we closely tracked work in relevant journals, think tanks and other research bodies from across the world. This work included two focused reviews of expert opinion, involving input from 45 academics and practitioners, to gather perspectives on the UK’s role in the world over the next ten years, UK capabilities in relevant areas, and the extent to which current systems support their effective use.
Analysis and assessment
We commissioned new analyses and assessments to address gaps, updated existing analyses, and developed new analytical products to inform decision-making and strategy development.
Global strategic outlook: the assessment community coordinated a cross-government analysis of global trends up to 2030. This analysis drew on a range of expertise, including horizon-scanning and futures analysis work by the MOD’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, GO-Science and the FCDO. It outlined the most significant global trends, drivers and changes, and their implications for national security and foreign policy over the coming decade.
Capabilities and systems: we sought to develop a detailed understanding of UK capabilities and systems to inform strategy and resourcing decisions. We carried out a cross-government assessment to provide an overview of government spending. We also compared the UK’s capabilities with those of key partners and undertook analysis of the culture of the national security community.
Risk assessment: the NSRA is a classified document that lists and assesses the impact and likelihood of the most serious risks facing the UK and its interests overseas. It is produced collaboratively with all departments and agencies and its findings were reviewed in light of COVID-19. The publicly available version of the NSRA, the National Risk Register, was published in December 2020.
Products to support decision-making and strategy development: we sought to improve the accessibility of the evidence base, synthesising inputs where appropriate. This included regular sharing of insights from the evidence base.
Challenge and assurance
We put in place challenge and assurance processes to test our assumptions and emerging thinking during the strategy development process. These drew from a range of tools and methods, which included:
- Research into mitigating cognitive biases in national security and international policy. The Open Innovation Team looked at a range of ‘alternative analysis’ approaches, audited existing initiatives and interviewed ten officials and 17 external experts including academics.
- Red-teaming to challenge and test emerging thinking from the perspective of third parties including, but not limited to, allies and adversaries.
- Reading groups of senior officials with specific subject matter expertise from across government departments and agencies to contribute to and provide feedback on the emerging Strategic Framework.
- Challenge groups to discuss the key assumptions and judgements of the Integrated Review, with participants from across government and our overseas network.
- Quality assurance at each phase of the Integrated Review process to assess the use of evidence against a framework, check figures and provide feedback on whether the Integrated Review presented a clear theory of change.
The Integrated Review’s programme of engagement, analysis and assessment has reinforced the need to improve the use of evidence across government. We are committed to improving the use of evidence, analysis and challenge, including from diverse sources, in developing and delivering national security and international strategy.
Annex C: Glossary
Term - definition
AI - Artificial intelligence
AMR - Antimicrobial resistance
ASEAN - Association of Southeast Asian Nations
BEIS - Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
CBRN - Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
CJEF - Combined Joint Expeditionary Force
CO - Cabinet Office
COBR - Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms
COP26 - 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties
COVAX - COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access
CPTPP - Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
CNI - Critical national infrastructure
CT - Counter-terrorism
CTOC - Counter Terrorism Operations Centre
DCMS - Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
DHSC - Department of Health and Social Care
Dstl - Defence Science and Technology Laboratory
EU - European Union
FCAS - Future combat air system
FCDO - Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
FDI - Foreign direct investment
FoRB - Freedom of religion or belief
FPDA - Five Power Defence Arrangements
FTA - Free trade agreement
GCHQ - Government Communications Headquarters
GDP - Gross domestic product
GNI - Gross national income
HO - Home Office
IAEA - International Atomic Energy Agency
ICF - International Climate Finance
ISU - Investment Security Unit
LRF - Local resilience forum
MHCLG - Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
MOD - Ministry of Defence
NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NCA - National Crime Agency
NCF - National Cyber Force
NCSC - National Cyber Security Centre
NCSP - National Cyber Security Programme
NECC - National Economic Crime Centre
NSC - National Security Council
NSRA - National Security Risk Assessment
ODA - Official Development Assistance
OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OPCW - Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
RAF - Royal Air Force
R&D - Research and development
SDGs - Sustainable Development Goals
SIS - Secret Intelligence Service - also known as MI6
SOC - Serious and organised crime
SR - Spending Review
S&T - Science and technology
UN - United Nations
UNHCR - UN Refugee Agency
VTD - Vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics
WHO - World Health Organization
WTO - World Trade Organization
The term ‘state threats’ is now used in place of ‘Hostile State Activity’ ↩
Serious and organised crime is defined as individuals planning, coordinating and committing serious offences, whether individually, in groups and/or as part of transnational networks. The main categories of serious offences covered by the term are: child sexual abuse; modern slavery and human trafficking; organised immigration crime; illegal drugs; illegal firearms; organised acquisitive crime; cyber crime; fraud; money laundering; and bribery, corruption and sanctions evasion. ↩
Countering proliferation is defined here as preventing the spread or development of CBRN capability and their means of delivery, or advanced military technology to state or non-state actors that could threaten UK interests or regional stability. ↩
Biosecurity is defined as the protection of the UK and our interests from biological risks (particularly significant disease outbreaks) whether these arise naturally, through the less likely event of an accidental release of hazardous biological material from laboratory facilities, or as the result of a deliberate biological attack. These risks could affect humans, animals or plants. ↩
Diseases caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites that spread from animals to humans. ↩